Demarcus Faggins was nervous. Actually, he was more than nervous.
A little over a month after being activated from the practice squad last season, Faggins was facing the biggest day of his life. His first NFL start would come against the Indianapolis Colts. His first assignment – All-Pro wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
At least coaches told him of his fate a week before.
"When they first told me I was going to be starting and I would have to guard Marvin Harrison the whole game I was like 'what!?'" Faggins said. "Then I was like, 'Ok, this is my chance to make plays. This is my chance to show everybody I can come in and play football.'"
The first couple of plays were hard. No one ever said lining up across from one of the league's greatest receivers and an MVP quarterback would be easy. But Faggins settled in nicely.
He held Harrison to one catch for 18 yards in the first half and deflected three passes before leaving the game with a cracked fibula.
It was a rough end to a season that got progressively better for Faggins. He
improved during the last eight games after being called up from the practice squad.
Faggins was a sixth-round draft pick in 2002, playing in two games that season.
The 5-foot-10 Faggins had five interceptions, 31 tackles and 10 passes defensed his senior year at Kansas State.
At first he was not having the pro career some expected. But when the Texans started suffering injuries to the defense he took his opportunity and never looked back.
"Two years ago it was totally different," Faggins said. "I didn't know I was going to be in this situation. I just kept working hard and kept making plays and let things just happen how they happened."
And happen they did.
Now he's backing up Pro-Bowl corner Aaron Glenn and seeing significant time when the defense switches to its five defensive back, or "nickel" package. Faggins has worked his way into a secondary bursting with talent, including nine-year veteran Marcus Coleman (seven interceptions in 2003) and first-round draft pick Dunta Robinson.
"I think we have more speed and coverage ability in our secondary than what we had," Texans head coach Dom Capers said. "DeMarcus Faggins continues to improve and Dunta Robinson is getting a lot of work. I think Marcus Coleman is a natural free safety."
Player and coaches call Faggins "Petey," after the dog from "The Little Rascals" television series. Faggins' grandmother said he had a ring around his eye when he was younger, like the dog. Faggins said he also watched the show when he was younger.
While the nickname might portray a docile and friendly nature, Faggins is neither on the field.
Well, he does catch the occasional ball, which contributes to his growing resume. With each interception, the selection of Faggins in the Texans second draft class looks better and better.
"We've been able to watch him," Capers said. "He's been with us all three years. Last year when he got his opportunities he went and took advantage of them and he's carried that all the way through to have a really good off-season."
Faggins' off-season program has consisted of more time in the weight room and a cozier relationship with the playbook.
"I feel good about training camp," he said. I know the defense right now, I'm making my calls, communicating with other guys on the team and trying to make plays.
"The main difference is that I know it. I've studying it. I've been practicing it. When they put me out there I'm comfortable with it. When I first came in I didn't know anything about it. I didn't know the game. It was totally different than what I did at Kansas State. So, I had to come in and keep working hard. Right now I feel like I've accomplished something."