Images of players like Andre Johnson and DeMeco Ryans typically grace the front of the Texans' 10 season tickets. This year, the honor belongs to the fans.
The Texans asked fans to submit stories showcasing their passion for the team in the "Your Story. Your Glory." contest earlier this year. The winners were selected and brought to Reliant Stadium for a photo shoot in April, and on Tuesday night, they learned upon which tickets they would appear. The honorees were celebrated at the 2011 season ticket unveiling in the Verizon West Club of Reliant Stadium.
"This is definitely a humongous honor to be on one of the season tickets for the Houston Texans," said Roger Lazarin, a former Army Specialist whose picture is on the ticket for the Texans' Nov. 6 game against Cleveland. "I never thought in a million years that I would get a chance. Whenever I entered the contest, I thought, 'Well, you know, it's like one in a million shot. Why not, I'll go ahead and do it.' My wife didn't even know I entered it; it was just on a spur of the moment. I can't explain how it makes me feel to be a part of this."
Lazarin served in the Army for six years, which included a two-year tour of duty in Iraq from 2004-05. In his story that he submitted to the team, he recounted how he would stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. to watch Texans games while he was overseas.
"Being on the ticket for the Salute to the Military game, that's a humongous honor for me as well," Salazin said. "Serving in the Army for so many years and having several of my friends in the military still – they're still doing tours overseas, and to kind of represent them and everybody in the military for that particular day, I can't describe how it makes me feel."
Each of the 10 tickets features fans with a unique story. The Texans' Dec. 18 ticket for their game against Carolina features Gail and Alan Martin, who got married in a Reliant Stadium parking lot before a game on Sept. 18, 2005. Their minister was wearing a Texans jersey.
"I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a big wedding," Gail Martin said. "We'd both been married before. So I said, 'Let's do this at the Texans home game. All of our friends are there.' He said, 'That's a great idea.' We already had our reception out there – all of our friends, our family, our food."
Other fans selected to be on the tickets are Diana Petisca, an X-ray technician who wears Texans scrubs to work; Bryan and Willie O'Neil, a father and young son; Brian Douglas, who decided to go to more Texans games after having a heart attack in 2006; Olanda Sharp-Buckley, who drives from Austin with her family to every Texans game.
There's also Jesus DeLeon, a Bull Pen member who paints his face and braids his hair at each game; Brian Standefer, who paints his face red and goes to a road game every year; Aaron Hale, who views games as a family experience and has an interesting ritual involving a Texans hat; and Nick Vollert, who does a "King Kong" celebration after every Texans touchdown.
"Last year, our marketing campaign was 'Unleash the Spirit,' and that was really well received by the fans," Texans director of marketing Jennifer Davenport said. "This year, we thought it would be a cool idea to sort of see how fans on an individual basis unleash their spirit. We were able to pick 10 fantastic fans who all had very unique stories. We think we did a good job of selecting fans who represent every style of Texans fan out there, and we're really pleased with the results.
"The Houston Texans have the best fans in the NFL. We're excited to be able to feature them on our tickets. They give so much support to the team, so it's nice to be able to give something back to them. And these fans, after tonight, are already kind of celebrities. They've been interviewed by several media outlets. They have radio interviews lined up. Their pictures are going to be in the paper. They're going to be all over the Texans' website. So it's nice to be able to see these fans sort of have this moment."
All of the winning fans' stories can be viewed at HoustonTexans.com/fanstories.