Now a member of the New Orleans Saints, tight end Billy Miller scored the first touchdown in Texans history against the Dallas Cowboys in 2002.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – In Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, two original Texans will be representing the New Orleans Saints as they take on the Indianapolis Colts in South Florida.
Linebacker Troy Evans, a special teams captain, and tight end Billy Miller, who is on injured reserve, both were with the Texans for the team's inaugural 2002 season.
Miller, a Texan from 2002-04, scored the first touchdown in team history against the Dallas Cowboys. Evans played in Houston from 2002-06, leading the team with 13 special teams tackles in his final season.
Both players shared fond memories of their time with the Texans when approached about the subject in South Florida this week.
"Coming to such a big city in Houston in 2002 was a great experience," said Evans, a native of Bay City, Mich., on Thursday. "The excitement over the team when we first got there was really, really cool. It was a great thing to be a part of, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
"Playing for the new team, getting a chance to play under Coach (Dom) Capers and then Coach (Gary) Kubiak, it was great. (Texans owner) Mr. (Bob) McNair was great. I lived in Houston for 10 years – even the first three years even when I played here – and my first two daughters were born there. I love the city, and I always will."
Miller's 19-yard touchdown catch in the Texans' first game in 2002, which led to a stunning 19-10 upset of the Cowboys at Reliant Stadium, still ranks as one of the most memorable plays in team history.
The play resonates just as much with Miller. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 1999 and spent the 2001 season out of football after the Broncos had released him.
"I think that, at that point in my career, that play helped me stay in the league," Miller said. "It's weird because I was a street free agent and had just gone to the Texans to kind of try it out and see what happened. To go out and score the first touchdown against the Cowboys really kind of made my mark in this league and gave the Texans the confidence to keep me around and throw me a ton of balls and really be a part of Houston Texans history. It was awesome."
Though Miller is currently on injured reserve, he's enjoying every minute of his first Super Bowl experience.
Miller has battled long odds to get here. He has been cut six different times in an 11-year career. After leaving the Texans, he lasted only three games with the Cleveland Browns in 2005 before being released. He signed with the Saints in 2006 and has found a way to stick with the team despite being cut twice in his first three seasons.
In recent years, Miller had become a valuable part of the Saints' offense. His 45 catches for 579 yards in 2008 marked his best year season 2002. But in the Saints' final preseason game in 2009, Miller tore his right Achilles tendon while running a pass route against the Miami Dolphins.
Despite the injury, Miller considers it a blessing just to be in with the Saints as they prepare for the first Super Bowl in the franchise's history.
"Every day is (a blessing) to me," Miller said. "All I know is how to work hard and go after it. I was never given anything, and it's not a sob story – I enjoy it. I enjoy when the odds are against me. It gives me an opportunity to go show them, 'Hey, I can do something.' Houston was a perfect example of that, and now the city of New Orleans and this team is a perfect example. It's awesome."
Evans, in a city famous for its fans, has become a fan favorite in New Orleans. He has played in 47 of 48 games in his three seasons with the Saints, even chipping in two starts at strongside linebacker in 2009. But his forte has been on special teams. Evans has 33 special teams tackles since 2007, and he has been a Saints special teams captain for the past two seasons.
Evans was on the practice squad of the 2001 St. Louis Rams team that played in Super Bowl XXXVI, but this is his first Super Bowl as a full-time player.
"The hoopla has grown a little bit from when I came with the Rams, but it's been a great experience," Evans said. "It's been a fun week, and it's been great to be in Miami.
"With this team, the will to win all year has been overwhelming. The city's behind us, and I'm ready to go play the game."