Battle Red Day is always one of those circle-this-one-on-the-calendar type games. Fans and players alike love the alternate uniform, which has taken on a few different variations over the years.
The tradition launched in 2003 as the Carolina Panthers came calling. Team president Jamey Rootes knew that every Texans game was an event unto itself and amplified that feeling by implementing themes to each gameday.
Battle Red Day was a natural. The players immediately took to the change-up in threads and it seemed their performance reflected that. The fans jumped at the chance of wearing the attractive red gear.
This was only the 12th home game in the history of the franchise. Gameday is always special, but these were the days when everything was brand new. The debut of Battle Red Day felt like a playoff game.
The Panthers were rolling out of the gate that year with a 6-1 start. They would eventually play in the Super Bowl at NRG Stadium against New England, another home opponent of the Texans that season.
I remember talking with former strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley about the matchup and asking him what he thought the chances were for victory. He calmly explained that there isn’t a game in the NFL that’s not winnable as long as your team makes a few key plays and doesn’t turn the ball over.
Houston was banged up in Year 2 of the franchise. And eventually the Texans would have their second-highest number of players head to injured reserve. On Battle Red Day, their starting quarterback, David Carr, was unavailable. This put veteran Tony Banks in the lineup.
Carolina had Jake Delhomme at QB. But it was former Redskin Stephen Davis who had a big game, with 153 rushing yards. The Texans defense was able to step up when it mattered most, holding the Panthers to one touchdown. Aaron Glenn had a pick. And Tony Banks hit Billy Miller for a TD with just over five minutes left to earn a 14-10 victory.
Houston wore the red jerseys with white pants. Eventually the Texans went to all-red a few years later and tried yet another variation in 2016 with red tops and blue pants. No matter what the combo, Battle Red Day brings out a fresh look and a special feeling. It’s a Texans tradition that began with a huge upset win and maintains its status as a unique, highly-anticipated day on the schedule every year.