Armed with gift cards, Verizon Tablets, autographed memorabilia and ear-to-ear smiles, a handful of Texans players traveled around Houston and surprised fans. The Texans Verizon Back to Football CARE-A-Van stopped at a McDonald's in Meyerland, a Verizon store near the Galleria, the Academy Sports Outdoors on the Southwest Freeway, the Gulfgate H-E-B, before finishing at the Houston Texans YMCA.
The McDonald's visit saw quarterback Matt Schaub handing out orders, outside linebacker Connor Barwin manning the drive-thru window and nose tackle Shaun Cody fixing shakes. Joining that trio was fullback James Casey, nose tackle Earl Mitchell linebackers Brooks Reed and Bryan Braman, defensive end Tim Jamison, and punter Brett Hartmann. The group would enter each location, sign autographs for fans, take pictures, clown around and pass out gift cards courtesy of Verizon. The entire experience was promoted solely through social media, and the players and organization would Tweet where they were headed next on the excursion. At each stop, the group would stay for roughly 10-20 minutes before heading on to the following location.
"It's a different way of interacting with the fans," Mitchell said. "It's just getting us ready for the season. Getting us amped and it's fun."
Staci Smith of Verizon was the driving force behind the event, and she particularly enjoyed the fans' reactions to seeing the players.
"It's just fun to see, especially the kids' faces, when Matt Schaub walks in and is bagging groceries at H-E-B, or serving them an ice cream cone with Shaun Cody and Connor Barwin at McDonald's," Smith said. "It's a 'money-can't-buy' experience."
There are tentative plans to have another CARE-A-Van at some point during the season.