Rookie diary: James Casey

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EDITOR'S NOTE:

Tight end James Casey, drafted in the fifth round (152nd overall) this April, is a former minor league baseball player who joined the Texans as a 24-year-old rookie from Rice. In his latest diary entry for HoustonTexans.com, Casey takes fans step-by-step through the game day experience.*

Some fans have asked me to write about what our whole game day experience is like, so I'm going to devote this diary entry to that.

Before I do, I've got to mention last week's game. We were very disappointed in the loss and felt like we should've pulled that one out. But like Coach Kubiak said, you're going to experience disappointments in your life, and no matter what it is, you've got to bounce back.

The good thing is we still have everything we want to achieve in front of us. If we can battle and come back this week against Oakland and get to 2-2, anything can happen from there.

As far as the personal experience of the last game, I think I played on six special teams plays, and I feel like I did a pretty good job on each one. It was really cool being on the same field as Jarett Dillard, my college teammate. Being able to look across the field and see him over there was very surreal.

Hopefully the two of us being in that same game shows that you can go to Rice and still have a shot in the NFL and also get a great education. Both of us love Rice, and we know if we wouldn't have been given the opportunities we were given there that there's no way that we'd have been in this situation. I guess that's my Rice plug for the week.

Now, on to our game day routine. We go through the whole week practicing and putting in the game plan for our opponent. On Saturday, we have a walkthrough and some other stuff and then we've got to be at our hotel at 5:30.

You work so hard that when you finally get to Saturday, it's kind of a relief to get in the hotel and relax. We get really nice food at dinner, and then we have meetings to go over some last-minute things. We watch a little video of the last week's game or something to get us motivated for the next day's game.

I usually try to eat healthy, but the night before the game is the one night I take to just eat whatever – cookies, ice cream, you name it. I know what I'm about to go through that next day, so I figure I might as well splurge and eat a lot.

One cool thing about being in the NFL is every Saturday night, after meetings we're all sitting around eating and there are TVs on showing all the college football games. Everybody in there is pulling for their college, talking trash back and forth about whose team's doing what. It's cool to realize that back when I was in college, the NFL players were all sitting there watching our games.

{QUOTE}Curfew at the hotel is around 11 p.m. I've got to bring some Tylenol PM or Nyquil or something, because the first three games, I haven't been able to sleep hardly at all. It's really tough for me to go to sleep because I'm so excited for the upcoming game and just laying there thinking about it and watching college football.

On game day, I get up at like 7:00 and go and eat breakfast with the team. Then we travel to the field on our own, which is different from college where we took buses as a team. So I get in my truck and drive back to my apartment to pick up my wife, and then she drives me to the field and drops me off. That way, she can use my parking pass to get into where we park at so she can have a really nice parking spot.

Once you get to the locker room, it's pretty intense. Everybody's kind of doing their own thing. Guys have their own rituals, their own routines about when they go out to the field to warm up, how much stretching they do, how they get loose and whether they listen to music or anything like that.

I'm still trying to figure out what my routine is, but I like to get out there really early and run, make sure I'm loose and ready to go by the time we go out there for individuals with our position groups. I do a little bit of deep snapping, so I go out with the first group to work on that. We go through the rest of our pregame stuff later, catching balls and doing some blocking and going against our defense.

When you're out there, you're obviously looking at the other team and kind of sizing those guys up. Every team that comes in here to play has a superstar, and I'm just like any other fan: When I see one of those big superstars, guys like Brett Favre or Adrian Peterson, I'm in awe to be on the same field as those guys. Hopefully, I'll get to the point one day where I'll be one of those guys.

After warm-ups, we go back into our locker room, Coach says a little pregame speech and we have a prayer, and then it's back out the tunnel and all craziness breaks out.

Playing at Reliant Stadium compared to playing at Rice, it's an amazing experience as far as how many fans are out there. In pregame, they go to each player and show what they're doing on the Jumbotron. They're just following you around. My wife gets a big kick out of it when she sees me up there on the big screen.

During the game, I know if I get a shot, I've got to be prepared. So I watch tight end and fullback because I've got to be ready to go for both. It's kind of hard to see what's going on sometimes from the sidelines. When Owen Daniels and Vonta Leach come to the sidelines, I'm always asking them questions about what they're seeing out there or what the defense is doing, just in case.

On special teams, I'm watching everybody because I'm a backup at a lot of different positions. I'm always right there and showing the coaches that I'm paying attention to the game and not just out there looking around and goofing around. I'm trying to make sure I'm paying attention and ready to go.

After the game, whether it's a win or a loss, Coach gets us together and talks to us in the locker room about whatever happened. Then we pray again and they give you a few minutes to shower and cool down and think about what you want to say in case you get interviewed by the media.

Then it's a big rush as all the media comes into the locker room. They usually go around talking to all the big-time guys, like Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub and Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans and those guys. So I kind of usually just sit around and watch those guys get interviewed, but every now and then I get interviewed, too.

My wife and mother-in-law are always right there waiting outside the locker room. We usually go out to IHOP from the stadium; I guess that's kind of a ritual of mine after football games. I like to eat and hang out there with whoever came to the game, and after that I go back home and watch Sunday Night Football. We have to be at the stadium early on Monday mornings, so I always go to sleep pretty early on Sunday nights after a game.

I hope that gives everybody a pretty good idea of what our game day is like. Thanks for reading the diary, as always. It's been fun doing it. I really appreciate all the questions, and I'll try to get to as many as I can. Keep [sending in anything](mailto:nscurfield@houstontexans.com?subject=James Casey Rookie Diary question/comment) that you think might be interesting to read, because I'm running out of things to talk about. Hopefully I'll be a little more interesting as the season goes on.

**James Casey rookie diary archive

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