Texans star in Super Bowl commercial

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Tackle Ephraim Salaam gives his winning pitch to the camera for the NFL's Super Ad campaign.

Two of the Texans' most likeable players introduced themselves on the world's biggest stage Feb. 3.

Tackle Ephraim Salaam and guard Chester Pitts co-starred in the NFL's Super Ad commercial. The 60-second spot, directed by legendary commercial director Joe Pytka, aired at the start of the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII.

Salaam ousted 240 other NFL players who related a personal story on camera as part of the NFL's Super Ad contest. Fans voted for their favorites on NFL.com beginning in early December.

After more than 500,000 votes were tallied, Salaam emerged as the winner, punching a ticket to stardom for he and Pitts. To say Pitts is excited would be a gross understatement.

"Come on, man. Are you kidding me?" Pitts said. "To have a Super Bowl commercial, there just aren't many players that have had that honor, that have been graced and blessed with something like this. It's unbelievable. My chin hit the ground when I found out.

"I got a phone call and I was told that the story was in the running and there would be a good shot at it happening, but I took that with a grain of salt, because I don't believe it until it's done. I don't believe it until Mr. (NFL commissioner Roger) Goodell calls me and says, 'Chester, you won.' I was blown away."

The commercial tells how Salaam, while at San Diego State University, convinced Pitts to try out for the Aztecs football team. Pitts was a student working as a grocery bagger at a local supermarket. He had attended a math and science academy in high school, which had no football team.

{QUOTE}But he heeded Salaam's advice, walked on to the team and, a few years later, had developed so rapidly that he was selected by the Texans in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft.

Salaam, a seventh-round draft choice by the Atlanta Falcons in 1998, reunited with Pitts in Houston as a free agent signee in 2006. He since has started 30 consecutive games next to his former college teammate on the left side of the offensive line.

"It is a phenomenal story that is true," Salaam said. "Hollywood couldn't write a script like this. We're playing next to each other. How about that? I'm having fun playing next to one of my close friends that I knew before football and that doesn't happen, ever."

NFL director of advertising Rob Stecklow said fans and league officials alike loved the story for its genuine factor. One of the focuses of the Super Ad campaign was to find a story that would show fans a glimpse of NFL players' under-the-helmet personalities.

"We figured we could use this time, this 60 seconds, to really get America to know two guys they didn't know before," Stecklow said. "Hopefully, when they watch the game, they have a little smile about these guys and overall they just have a better feeling about the league and our players."

Pitts and Salaam shot the commercial in Los Angeles at a small grocery store and the Rose Bowl in an experience that blew Pitts away.

The two Texans players were put up with accommodations on Sunset Boulevard, and both Pitts and Salaam had their own trailer, complete with a personal wardrobe and countless attendants.

"It was the real Hollywood treatment," Pitts said. "I see why some of these actors really feel like they're special and are used to demanding this and demanding that. I mean, these people, they were just so nice to me and anything you wanted, anything you could think of, anything, there was somebody always waiting right there before you even asked. They took great care of you, so that part of it was really awesome."

Stecklow, impressed with the players' demeanor on camera, said that both charismatic athletes might have a future in acting.

"I don't know about that," Pitts said with a laugh. "We will see. But, honestly, comparing that day's work to playing a football game, I would have to say that the acting was a little less taxing on my body. I remember getting up to shoot and saying to myself, 'Hey, I feel pretty good! My body doesn't feel too bad.'

"I mean, I got up from the shoot and my knees and my elbows and my neck and all that stuff felt pretty doggone good. I was like, 'Whoa, this is work?'"

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