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Talk to Reality: Stroud excited for first playoff appearance

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C.J. Stroud had officially been a Texan for a mere few minutes when he learned Will Anderson Jr. would be joining him in Houston. 

The duo walked together, donning their new Texans hats, as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall picks. Potentially franchise-altering selections as they took the first steps of their NFL careers. 

Once the 2023 NFL Draft was complete Stroud, Anderson and the entire rookie class – which included Tank Dell, Xavier Hutchinson and Juice Scruggs – got connected on a group chat to set their expectations. 

"It was just us, the rookies, and we were like, 'Man, we're going to be the foundation that changes this thing around,' and lo and behold, that's kind of what came to be true," Stroud said. 

The 2023 Texans rookie class has laid that groundwork helping guide the franchise to 10 wins, a playoff berth and an AFC South division crown in their first year. 

Stroud, of course, gives credit to the veterans and the rest of his teammates for their role in accomplishing this instant turnaround, but believes his class, their tight-knit group of rookies, has had a major impact. 

"I definitely think that the group of guys we brought in – there's been times where the rookies have led, and I think everybody can agree with that," Stroud said. "It's been cool just to see some of the things we talked about come to fruition."

In their rookie campaigns, Stroud has already passed for more than 4,000 yards, Anderson has racked up a single-season rookie franchise record seven sacks and Dell was the second-leading receiver for Houston just behind Nico Collins before he got hurt. Since his injury, Hutchinson has stepped in and Scruggs has found playing time on the line after dealing with an injury himself. 

This group of rookies now prepares for another first – the first playoff game of their young careers.

"They've said it's no difference," Stroud said about what the veterans have told them about the playoffs. "It's just what you make it. For me, I think that's one thing that I can appreciate is the honesty, just not blowing things up with them. They're always going to be honest with me and not tell me something's bigger than what it is or lesser than what it's going to be. It's just football. 

"Just be yourself, is what they always tell me. I've played in playoff games before, big games. The less that you put pressure on yourself, I feel like the more you just execute and do your job. That's when good things happen."

The good thing for the rookies is their first playoff game experience in the NFL comes at home in the friendly confines of NRG Stadium with what Stroud is looking forward to being a raucous Texans crowd. 

"I can't wait to see NRG, how loud and excited the fans are going to be," Stroud said. "I'm really excited to play in my first playoff game, of course. It's been a goal of mine since I've been a kid. I've always watched it and things like you said. So, I'm really excited and just ready to roll."

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