Quarterback Matt Schaub is a leader for the Texans on and off the field.
If you think Matt Schaub gets excited when he throws a touchdown pass, you should see his reaction when he coaxes a smile from a bald-headed kid in a hospital bed fighting cancer.
There's no comparison.
"Football is great with what we do on the field and the friendships we generate here in the locker room, but those kids mean so much more," Schaub said. "It's above and beyond because you're talking about real people and you put a smile on their faces. It means more than a touchdown."
When not directing the Texans' offense, Schaub is involved in an impressive array of community projects. For his unselfish charity work, Schaub has been named the Texans' representative in the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Competition.
The award recognizes a player's community work as well as his playing excellence. Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner was last year's national winner. Each NFL team elects a representative to compete for the national honor.
Each team winner receives a $1,000 donation to the organization of his choice. Each of three finalists get an additional $5,000, and the national winner gets $25,000 to any non-profit organization of his choice.
Schaub's $1,000 donation as a team winner will go to the Young Texans Against Cancer (YTAC).
A list of Schaub's community projects confirms his affinity to help kids. Somehow, he finds time to participate.
"We use our days off on Monday and Tuesday to get out there and do some work and interact with the fans and charity groups," Schaub said. "Then, in the offseason we do stuff, too."
Schaub has been quick to understand that his role as the Texans' starting quarterback goes far beyond the playing field.
"I'm big into stuff with kids, working with kids that are challenged from that perspective," Schaub said. "They look up to us as role models and players and to put a smile on their face is the most important thing. A lot of them are facing so many tougher circumstances than we probably ever comprehend.
"To be able to enrich their lives is the best feeling... They are some of the most positive people you'll ever meet."
Schaub is having his best season as a pro. He's ranked among the most accurate passers in the NFL. He has completed 66.2 percent of his passes over the last two seasons. He owns the Texans' career record with five 300-yard passing games and holds the franchise record with a career passer rating of 90.3.
Schaub ranks fourth among NFL quarterbacks this season in passing yards (3,814) and fifth in touchdown passes (24).
His off-field performance is equally impressive. It includes: Houston Tackles Autism campaign with former Texans running back Ahman Green; Orangewood Children's Foundation in Orange County, Calif., which serves as a shelter for children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned; Young Texans Against Cancer, founded to increase cancer awareness among 22-25 year olds; and The Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids, which seeks the support of athletes to develop concepts that generate funds for children's charities.
Schaub also is part of the Texans All Community Team (TACT). His TACT group is the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana. The group grants wishes for children with life-threatening conditions.
Schaub and Green have been involved with the Houston Tackles Autism campaign. They have set a goal this season to raise $1 million for the organization. Both players have committed to raising $500,000.
Funds will assist families in early diagnosis of autism and help increase awareness of the disease. Schaub also supports Houston's Avondale House.
"You go out and meet people and start interacting with people and talking about certain things and something touches you and motivates you and you want to be a part of it," Schaub said. "That's when you really get involved with it."
Schaub can't pick a favorite charity. He can't pick a single child's smile that has meant more than another.
"They are all the interactions that you meet and are so special in their own way," Schaub said. "It all means the same because you are creating smiles."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky., Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro teams.