Dameon Pierce was nervous before Saturday night's preseason opener against the Saints.
The rookie running back said his "heart was racing", his "head was pounding" and he was "jittery" the 24 hours leading up to his pro debut at NRG Stadium.
At the start of the second quarter, when Running Backs Coach Danny Barrett told him he was on deck to enter the game, Pierce's nervousness reached its peak, but when he stepped in between the lines, everything changed.
"Once I got on the turf I calmed down," Pierce said. "I got my thoughts cleared and just went out and did what I've been doing my whole life."
Pierce, who finished with 49 yards on just five carries in the 17-13 win over New Orleans, arrived with a flourish as he galloped for a 20-yard gain. The Texans were trailing 7-3, and facing a 2nd-and-3 on the Saints' 40-yard line. Pierce took that handoff from Jeff Driskel, cut to his left and made a defender miss, then sprinted forward and ended the run by dragging one Saint on his back and driving another Saint into the turf.
Pierce followed up that big gain with a pickup of six yards on the next play. Two snaps later, Houston was in the end zone, as Driskel found Jalen Camp for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
When Pierce and the offense were on the field next, he rumbled for a gain of nine, then had a pair of seven-yard pickups later in the drive.
"Dameon Pierce definitely caught my eye, and everybody's eye that was watching him," Texans Head Coach Lovie Smith said. "That's what we've seen during Training Camp, also. He's a good football player."
Like Smith pointed out, several others were impressed with what Pierce did, and has done since arriving in Houston in May. Defensive Lineman Ogbo Okoronkwo, who came up with a fumble recovery, a sack and four tackles in the victory, lit up when he was asked about Pierce.
"He's a talented back," Okoronkwo said. "I really love watching him run the ball."
Despite the accolades, Pierce was quick to give credit to his offensive linemen.
"It makes my job a whole lot easier when you've got an o-line as cohesive as ours," Pierce said. "Everybody's on the same page, making sure we're good on our audibles. That's what it comes down to. When our offense is on the same page, you get plays like that, where it looks easy for the running back. I've just to make my man miss and go to work."
Pierce and the Texans have Sunday off and will return to practice on Monday at the Houston Methodist Training Center. They face the Rams in Los Angeles Friday night at 9 p.m. CT.