The Best Fans In The NFL

Editor's Note: This first appeared in the Texans Gameday magazine on December 28th.

In his first season as head coach, Bill O'Brien saw firsthand the power and passion behind Texans fans.

"It's hard to put words to what the fans mean to us here in Houston," O'Brien said. "I just think this is the best fan base in the NFL. I just think our home crowds are incredible, and then the way that they travel, it just means a lot to our players. I know our players—which is the most important thing as it relates to our fans—our players are very appreciative of that. They love our fans."

After being down 24-0 in the first quarter to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6, Texans fans didn't lose hope. In the fourth quarter, J.J. Watt's 45-yard fumble recovery cut the lead to five points and the roar inside NRG Stadium was thunderous.

That play belonged to the fans as much as it did to the Texans All-Pro defensive end.

"It's really loud out there," Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said following the game. "At that time, it was deafening. The play clock was running down. I think Andrew (Luck) was looking at that when the ball was snapped. From a communications standpoint, you can't pin it on the quarterback and you can't pin it on the center. I credit Houston's fans for that one."

That moment at NRG was louder than any stadium O'Brien could recall, including Penn State's Beaver Stadium which seats 106,572.

Watt agreed.

"Our fans are unbelievable," Watt said. "I was talking to Brooks Reed on the sideline during that game and there were a couple of pick sixes, a playoff game and a bunch of great times, but that was no question the loudest I've ever heard it, by far. It was not even close. So that was really cool. We love our fans. They make a big difference and so we really appreciate them and I hope that they continue to do what they've been able to do for us because they're a big help at home."

Texan fans create a home field advantage wherever they go. This season, the Cowboys offense had to revert to a silent snap count in Dallas. Houston fans were so loud on defense, that AT&T Stadium felt more like NRG Stadium. Even national media took notice of the disproportionate number of Battle Red jerseys at the game.

"We played on the road today in that football game," quarterback Tony Romo said in his post-game press conference.

*Fans From Day 1

*Darin Pittman and his wife Jennifer remember another game against Dallas, the first ever Texans season opener on September 8, 2002. The Pittmans have been season ticket holders since the Texans inaugural season in 2002. He recalls the exact moment when he made the most important decision every season ticket holder makes.

"I was in Mississippi and I was driving when they called me to select my seats," Pittman said. "I was thinking, 'Ok, I want to face the bench, that's on the east side. Yeah, that'll be good.'"

The Pittmans travel to three to five away games a year. It's not cheap - they take time off from work to go - but it's a cost they happily incur for the experience.

"It's more about the experience than the record," Pittman said. "We'd love to see them do well. Yeah we want to win. The flight home is always better as I'm sure it is for the team."

The Pittmans attend home games with their next-door neighbor and a high school friend. The camaraderie they share extends beyond their four seats. They've gotten to know all the other season ticket holders in Section 612. Down in Section 114 in the endzone, season ticket holder Mark Baughman has had a similar experience. Wearing a Deep Steel Blue hardhat with a Texan bobblehead doll fixed to the top, Mark "Bobblehead" is also one of the original season ticket holders.

Texans fans show up loud and proud to NRG Stadium for the Week 17 Fan Appreciation Day game.

"The section that I sit in has been pretty much all the same people," Baughman said. "I've watched their kids grow up and now they are getting older. Some of them started when they were three and now they are 16, 17. It's been really fun watching that, even with my kids."

Fellow Texans fans became such good friends, Baughman even invited some of them to his daughter's wedding.

The experience of cheering for the Texans holds a lot of fond memories for Baughman. He debates to himself which was his favorite home game: the inaugural game in 2002, Watt's pick-six in the first-ever playoff appearance in 2011, and many moments from this season when he couldn't recall it ever being louder at NRG Stadium.

However, there's one road game that Baughman will never forget, playing the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 7, 2008. The Texans, who traveled to a stadium rich with history for Green Bay, played in the coldest weather in franchise history that day. Temperatures hovered around 3 degrees at kickoff with wind chill much colder.

Baughman, sitting about 20 rows up from the Green Bay bench, still remembers those final seconds as the Texans field goal unit lined up for the last play of the game.

"I had coveralls, long johns, sweats, blue jeans, winter boots on and had socks, earmuffs, stocking cap, gloves," Baughman said, laughing. "At the end of the game, the temperature started to nose dive and I was starting to shiver. 'Please make this. Please make this,' I thought."

Kris Brown's 40-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired and Baughman and the Texans emerged from 'The Frozen Tundra' victorious, winning 24-21.

*An Experience Fit For A King

*Every end zone must be ruled with an iron fist. David Nagy, "The End Zone King," attends games and Texans events in full regal garb. Wearing an elaborate sky-high crown and a velvet cape with his title

Displayed on the back, he's easy to spot in the Bullpen, Section 116. Nagy had the inspiration for The Endzone King alter ego while sightseeing in New Orleans.

"While I was enjoying the French Quarters and Bourbon Street, I saw this hat in a store window," Nagy said. "It was quite outrageous and unique so I bought it. I brought it home and added the Texans logo to it and started wearing it to games. This became my famous crown. One of my friends started calling me 'The End Zone King' and from then on the character grew as I added more flair to the outfit, such as my  custom cape and Crazy Chain."

Nagy and his son travel to anywhere from four to eight Texans road games per year. This season, they attended games in New York, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. The two try to get tickets behind the Texans bench between the 40-yard line markers. Dressed as Texans royalty, the king is hard to miss.

"Many of the players, coaching staff and even Bob McNair have grown used to seeing us there and come say hi to us, which we think is very cool of them," Nagy said.

*Off The Field

*Texans fan Trisha Smith doesn't have season tickets. She attends about a handful of games each season and travels to one or two, if possible. While she loves attending games, her favorite memories are the ones she captures off the field.

"It would have to be the radio show," Smith said. "It's fun to go to it and watch each week. They may not know who I am, but it's fun for me to get to know them. People tend to forget that the players are just everyday guys who have been gifted with great talent and who have also worked hard to get to where they are at."

Each week players appear as guests on Texans Radio and Texans TV. This season Duane Brown had his own radio show on Tuesdays at the Houston Texans Grille. The Texans starting left tackle enjoyed meeting and talking to fans, who came out and supported the show whether the Texans won or lost.

"It's been amazing," Brown said. "This past week it was a packed house. It's been awesome to see that kind of support. They don't have to do that, take time out of their day on a Tuesday, struggling through traffic to come out there, and I think it really adds to the atmosphere and makes it more fun."

*You: The Fans

*In honor of Fan Appreciation Day, the Houston Texans recognize all the fans who not only create wonderful memories for themselves, but also for the players and everyone who works behind the scenes on game days. Selling out every game in franchise history, traveling to other cities for road games, attending events and supporting players, it's all part of what a Texan fan is.

"Our fans are simply the best in the National Football League," Texans President Jamey Rootes said. "They understand the game of football and they are passionate about the sport, the team and our city.  They provide us with an amazing home field advantage and they do it with a respect for the game, the players and the experience. It is really an amazing relationship that has developed between the Houston Texans and our fans.  We create an environment that allows them to have fun, bond with other Texans and show their passion, but our fans are really what make game day and the Texans Experience so special."          

*Traveling Texans

*A group of fans, who refer to themselves as the "Traveling Texans," have organized a Facebook page to help plan road trips and meet up with other fellow Texans. They typically wear Battle Red to stand out to one another. Of course, if the Texans are playing a red-based team such as the 49ers or Chiefs, then they may switch to a Deep Steel Blue theme. The Traveling Texans meet up and hold events in different cities and offer tips to other fans looking to have a great road experience.

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