There was always a crowd around Romeo Crennel. And everyone was smiling.
He announced his retirement earlier today, and he closed the book on a football career that spanned five decades. In that time, he left a sizeable dent for the better on the thousands of people he encountered.
When Crennel joined the Texans in January of 2014, one of his first public appearances that winter was in Mobile, Alabama during Senior Bowl week. There were always a few Texans assistants with him, but on top of that, a mishmash of scouts, coaches and executives from other NFL teams as well. Typically, everyone was laughing. He was as connected as it gets.
After 50 years of coaching, including 39 seasons in the NFL, Romeo Crennel announced his retirement on Monday.
Think about it: Crennel entered the NFL in 1981 as a defensive assistant and special teams coach with the New York Giants. Bill Parcells was the defensive coordinator and they were working under Head Coach Ray Perkins. Those Giants went 10-6, beat Dick Vermeil's Philadelphia squad in the Wild Card playoff contest, before losing in the Divisional Round to Bill Walsh and the 49ers. San Francisco went on to beat Tom Landry and the Cowboys the next week, and then win the first of the franchise's five Super Bowl rings shortly thereafter.
The NFL was a different animal back then. Offensively, just about every player but the quarterback was in a three-point stance when the ball was snapped. What Crennel saw when he entered the league was a lot different than when exited.
But back to the crowd reference at the top: even when he was in the offices at NRG Stadium, there was a group around him. When Crennel paused for a coffee break, there were always a few people chatting him up and checking in on him. Whether the Texans had won or lost the week before, his smile was always ear-to-ear, and he always had a kind word for whoever he encountered. That will be the first thing I remember about him, and selfishly, I'm bummed he won't be around this year.
Crennel's lived a terrific football life, and I hope his retirement is just as fruitful and enjoyable as the past five decades have been.