In an array of events leading up the first game in franchise history, other than the day the team itself was awarded, the expansion draft stands out as perhaps the biggest.
Sure, hiring Dom Capers as coach and Charley Casserly as general manager made huge news. But February 18, 2002 was a single haul of player acquisition that inhaled the national spotlight and heavily influenced the first few years of on-field performance.
Each NFL team left five unprotected players that could be selected. The Texans had to take either 30 players or contacts totaling 38 percent of the salary cap. Houston selected 19 players, including four Pro Bowlers.
Some of the suspense may have been a bit tempered, with the selected players already in the building. However, excitement was fever pitch as Texans fans, clad in their new regalia, filled the seats and voiced their enthusiasm with playoff volume.
The draft was held at the George R. Brown Convention Center, as the stadium had yet to be finished. In fact, it felt a little empty around the building as the Toyota Center and the Hilton Americas weren’t built yet. ESPN covered it with all the fanfare of the college draft, with Mike Tirico anchoring the coverage.
On paper, the class looked terrific and appeared to set up an excellent nucleus on both sides of the ball. Defensively, this played out great. Aaron Glenn was the biggest name picked, and he made the Pro Bowl, along with Gary Walker, after the inaugural campaign. The fact that the Texans had two defensive players selected to go to Hawaii after a 4-12 season tells you how promising the defense looked.
Trouble arrived on offense when expansion draft marquee selection Tony Boselli could never suit up because of a shoulder injury. Boselli would have paired with fellow draftee Ryan Young to make excellent tackle bookends. But Young had his own injury issues and barely played.
Other players of note included Seth Payne, Jamie Sharper, Marcus Coleman and Jermaine Lewis.
On a personal note, it was my first Texans event. And I was honored when Bob McNair himself introduced me as a ‘number one draft pick’ as the voice of the team.
A little more than two months later, the team would make David Carr its first ever college selection as the roster really began to fill up. But the expansion draft provides an indelible memory in the minds of Texans fans everywhere as a landmark event.