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Your Texans: Jon Hoke


Texans secondary coach Jon Hoke keeps team meetings light. He allows players freedom to laugh a little. Pregame countdown is a different matter.

He might be the most agitated man on the planet. He's Elvis amped to the maximum.

"He might be the most nervous person I've seen in my life," cornerback DeMarcus Faggins said. "He's walking up and down. He takes energy drinks and he might take way more than he needs for the game. I think he starts shaking."

Cornerback Dunta Robinson has his own strategy.

"He's one of those guys you don't want to talk to before the game or during the game," Robinson said. "I try to stay away from him as much as I can on Sundays. A lot of times it gets heated. We might go back and forth, but as soon as we get off the field it gets back to normal."

Hoke chuckles when told of his players' comments.

"I definitely have a lot of competitiveness," Hoke said. "I want everything to be perfect. So that probably is a little bit of it that they say is nervousness. It's just me being emotional and being competitive as much as anything else."

Hoke's version of his pregame activity is arriving early for a workout and a run, then a shower and on to final details.

"I deliver notes, you know, make sure I see them in the locker room and give them any notes I have for them for the game," he said.

Hoke must be doing something right. He's one of three original Texans coaches who have survived one head coaching and general manager change and staff shakeups in the Texans' six-year history.

When he's not revving up before a game, Hoke uses the word "challenge" a lot.

"You always want to challenge them to get better, challenge them to improve their technique, challenge them to be more mentally focused," Hoke said. "And, however you challenge them, challenge them to be tougher, challenge them to be the best player they can be, challenge them to be better than their teammates, challenge your group to be better than the linebacker group.

"You are always in a mode where you are challenging them every day in a different way then that kind of is motivation for them."

And this is only preseason.

Rookies are especially vulnerable to the Hoke method. Robinson has survived his indoctrination. Rookie Fred Bennett is still getting his challenges.

"Now he acts like he knows I can play football," Robinson said of Hoke. "When I first got here as a rookie, he wasn't sure. Everything was, 'We're going to see what you've got when we throw you into the fire.'

"Now he knows I'm a proven player and I can play this game, so he's a lot more comfortable around me."

Hoke sees potential in Bennett, but he still gives him the rookie treatment.

"He gave me a hard time when I came down here in mini-camp,'' said Bennett, a fourth-round pick this year from South Carolina. "He brought the best out of me and I have a lot of respect for him."

Hoke's message to his players is the same command being drilled by all defensive coaches: Make more turnovers.

"Getting turnovers is the key component," Hoke said. "We can't give up big plays. We want to go out and get interceptions, cause a fumble, get a fumble. If you look at last year, the games that we had multiple turnovers, those were the games we won.

"I hope the turnover aspect will be the biggest part they see as the difference."

Robinson made a big splash as a rookie in 2004, playing with former Texans cornerback Aaron Glenn. Robinson had six of the team's 22 interceptions, tying for the NFL rookie lead in picks.

"We've just got to get back to that," Robinson said. "We've got the players and we know what we can do. It's a matter of going out and making plays."

The Texans had only 11 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries last season. Robinson acknowledges there could have been more thefts.

"Some of those passes we knocked down, we've got to catch those," Robinson said. "We've got to strip that runner as he's running. There are a lot of things we put emphasis on in this camp. We've been doing a good job with turnovers in this camp."

Hoke has made it clear he wants to see more turnovers from the secondary.

"Knocking it down, being in position is not really good enough any more," Hoke said. "We need to go create the turnover because turnovers will always win you football games."

Players say Hoke is more relaxed during team meetings. Hoke agrees.

"I don't have to worry about keeping it light because of their personalities," Hoke said. "I'm just kind of a moderator. Because of their personalities, because of the positions they play, they handle that. Keeping it light, they take care of themselves."

Hoke had 18 years of college coaching experience, including three seasons with the Florida Gators, before getting his first pro job. He was assistant head coach/defensive coordinator in his final season of 2001 at Florida. He calls his college days good training for pro coaching.

"Any guy who's been in coaching, especially college coaching, knows it's all about teaching," Hoke said. "It's how good of a teacher you are. I'm thankful my career in college was so long because it taught me to be a better teacher.

"You're teaching high school guys on your team that might have to go play for you as a freshman. That's what you do with a rookie in this league.

"They have more football experience (here), but you still have to teach them. College football taught me how to teach the game of football."

Hoke had college coaching jobs at Bowling Green, San Diego State, Kent State and Missouri before arriving at Florida. He seems to have found a home in Houston.

"I'm very fortunate to be held over," he said. "It was an opportunity for me. If they wanted me to stay, then I wanted to stay. I was fortunate enough where I had some people speaking well of me. That helped. I had some recommendations that were helpful to me."

It also didn't hurt that Hoke has his players' support. Ultimately, that's one of the truest signs of a good coach.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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