The offseason was long for Duke Ejiofor.
The Texans rookie outside linebacker missed most of it recovering from a torn labrum suffered during his 2017 season at Wake Forest. Cleared for football in July, Ejiofor returned to the football field in time for training camp.
But his real entrance was during the preseason, almost as if Ejiofor had something to prove.
"It was all about me going out there and show what I've been working on, throughout the whole offseason and training camp," Ejiofor said.
In Week 1 at Kansas City, Ejiofor debuted with three quarterback hits. He followed it up the next week against the 49ers with a tackle on the opening kickoff and then a tackle for loss for the Texans defense.
The Texans sixth-round draft pick surprised many with his early playmaking, but not teammate Whitney Mercilus.
"No we all saw it," Mercilus said. "Especially the way that he practiced. Just the way he carried himself and even though he was a rookie, he was much more ahead of the curve than a lot of us were when we were a rookie. Very surprising to see that and he did a great job. He has great fluid body motion and that's something that you don't typically see in guys."
Ejiofor, the son of Nigerian immigrant parents and a 2013 graduate of Alief Taylor High School, prides himself on his pass-rushing skills. He has leaned on teammates like Mercilus and Brennan Scarlett for mentoring and studying the playbook. He has taken the coaching in a short period of time and continues to work on his technique, both adding variety to his pass-rush moves and setting an edge in the run.
On Sunday, Ejiofor will face a five-time Super Bowl champion quarterback in Tom Brady. Though he grew up watching Brady, Ejiofor won't let the moment be too big for his NFL debut.
"I think just taking it a play at a time, just knowing that everything is not going to be perfect," Ejiofor said. "Just focusing on your assignments and alignments and just taking it a play at a time."
The Texans will open their 2018 regular season against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is set for Sunday at 12 noon CT on CBS and SportsRadio 610.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 3/2/2021)