Cullen Gillaspia Jersey

Surrounded by family at a crawfish boil at his home in Katy, Cullen Gillaspia received a telephone call unprecedented in the rich 12th Man tradition.

When Texans general manager Brian Gaine dialed up the burly, long-haired Texas A&M fullback in the seventh and final round of the draft, the AFC South franchise acquired a hometown player with a reputation as a head-knocking special-teams ace and a bruising lead blocker.

Gillaspia became the first 12th man in school history to be drafted by an NFL team.

Steeped in a 12th Man tradition launched in 1922 when Aggies student E. King Gill left the stands to join the shorthanded Aggies on the sideline against Centre College in the Dixie Classic, Gillaspia is a former walk-on from Katy Taylor who earned a scholarship.

Now, he’s a fully-fledged NFL rookie.

“When I got that call, it was really just a surreal moment,” Gillaspia said. “Five years ago, I was a walk-on at Texas A&M. I was on the scout team for two years. If you would have told me that I’d be getting drafted right now, I would have laughed in your face. But it happened. All my best friends are Houston Texans, my family are Houston Texans, and I couldn’t be happier.

“My dad is literally busting at the seams with happiness and my mom is happy with me just staying home, and my brother is just happy he doesn’t have to root for anyone other than the hometown team. It was a great experience. I’m happy I couldn’t be more excited for the situation, and I’m ready to get to work.”

Knows how to beat the odds

With all-out hustle, his trademark relentless nature and deceptive speed, Gillaspia loves beating the odds.

Gillaspia emerged as something of a campus rock star in recent years. His popularity kept growing in College Station through his thunderous tackles on special teams and his blue-collar work opening up holes for All-Southeastern Conference running back Trayveon Williams, a Cincinnati Bengals sixth-round draft pick.

More than a curiosity at his school as converted linebacker, Gillaspia parlayed a strong senior year into becoming an NFL draft prospect. He played in every game, catching five passes for 52 yards, recording six tackles on special-teams and ran for a touchdown in a Gator Bowl blowout victory over North Carolina State. He won the Aggies’ Most Impactful award for his special-teams handiwork.

All heady stuff for a player who toiled away on the scout team before earning a scholarship as a sophomore and being named a team captain as a junior when he blocked two punts, including one for a safety against Alabama.

“He’s a unique guy in his position,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters following the draft. “He’s extremely athletic, and what he brings to special teams in the NFL, which we emphasize, too, it’s one of the great rewards you get in coaching. It really is.

“It’s great to see a guy who never really thought about playing in the NFL, but once he realized he could, it’s a credit to him and his coaches. They developed him, and he allowed them to do that.”

A former all-district linebacker and return specialist who played baseball and served as vice president of the Katy Taylor student body, Gillaspia captured the imagination of Aggies fans with his rugged style of play.

From the days of Gill to former Aggies coach Jackie Sherrill forming a 12th Man kickoff team from Corps of Cadets members and other students in the 1980s, the legend of the 12th Man lives on in College Station and through Gillaspia.

“It means everything,” Gillaspia said. “They say that I’m the 12th Man or that I’m number 12 and I’ve made this thing popular, but that’s not true. The 12th Man and Texas A&M have such a rich history from E. King Gill in the early 1900s all the way to Jackie Sherrill of the 12th Man kickoff team.

“Me getting drafted, me scoring the touchdown in the bowl game, this is for all of the number 12s before me. It’s not about me. It’s about the brotherhood. It’s about the guys that came before me and laid the foundation for me to get to wear the number 12.”

Special-teams ace

Now, No. 12 is wearing the No. 44 jersey for the Texans after impressing coaches and scouts during their local prospect day at NRG Stadium.

Gillaspia will have an opportunity to earn a roster spot, primarily on special teams working for special-teams coordinator Brad Seely, but also blocking for running backs Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman.

“We’ll start him off on offense as a fullback, and he was an excellent special teams player there (at A&M),” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “Was the 12th man at Texas A&M. I think everybody understands what that means there. Our scouts did an awesome job getting him into our local pro day. We’re excited to be able to add him to our team.”

Between his 4.57 time in the 40-yard dash at the Aggies’ Pro Day audition and 6-2, 235-pound frame, Gillaspia has the physical requisites and the temperament to excel on special teams.

Declining scholarship offers from smaller schools, Gillaspia enrolled at Texas A&M to study environmental science. He joined the team as a walk-on during the tenure of former coach Kevin Sumlin. It took a few years, but Gillaspia assumed the coveted 12th Man role when Sam Moeller graduated.

Xavier Crawford Jersey

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Xavier Crawford thinks he could’ve gone higher in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Despite viewing himself as a better prospect than experts and scouts project, the Central Michigan cornerback was selected with the 195th overall pick to the Houston Texans in the sixth round.

He finally accomplished a dream that he once set for himself as a youth football player – back when the helmet was too big for his head; when the shoulder pads spilled over.

“Initially, it was nerve-racking going through the whole process,” Crawford said. “Once my name got called, all of that left my body and it was immediate excitement. At the end of the day, it’s a blessing. I’m going to make the most of the opportunity.”

At the NFL Scouting Combine on March 4, Crawford posted a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, 2.66-second 20-yard dash, 1.62-second 10-yard dash, registered 11 on the bench press and a 37.5 inch vertical.

On March 14, over a week later, Crawford pumped out a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at CMU’s Pro Day.

Crawford had a pre-draft workout with the Texans and even met with them at the NFL Combine. Even though the parties were close heading into the draft, the cornerback had no clue where he’d end up.

But Crawford isn’t surprised that he’s headed to Houston.

“This process can go anywhere, so I didn’t know for sure if that was where I would be,” Crawford said. “But to hear my name called, it was a little less surprising, but at the end of the day, you never really know.”

Crawford’s old teammate, former Oregon State cornerback Treston Decoud, was selected in the fifth round (No. 169 overall) by the Texans in the 2017 NFL Draft. Besides word of mouth from Decoud, Crawford said he’s unsure of what to expect when he starts rookie minicamp on May 3.

Because Crawford doesn’t know anyone on the team and hasn’t ever been to an NFL minicamp, he said excitement and nervousness will clash once he arrives in town.

“I don’t know what to expect other than stories I’ve heard, but you have to experience things for your own,” he said. “It’s more exciting than anything to be back playing football.”

However, Crawford claimed he’s well aware Houston’s push for a Super Bowl. The Texans won two-straight ACF South championships before going 4-12 overall in 2017. Last year, coach Bill O’Brien got Houston back on track with an 11-5 record and a first-place finish in its division.

“This organization is trying to move up and win a Super Bowl, so I’m blessed to be a part of a good team that is ready to compete at a high level,” Crawford said. “To have their goals set on being Super Bowl champions, I’m happy I’m with that organization.”

Charles Omenihu Jersey

Charles Omenihu was destined to be a Texan.

Born in Houston, Omenihu spent most of his childhood in Rowlett, Texas. During his high school career at Rowlett High School, he wore No. 7, the same number Jadeveon Clowney wore at the University of South Carolina. At the University of Texas, Omenihu switched to No. 90.

Now, Houston’s newest defensive end will get to play alongside Houston’s No. 90 and begin his pro football career in his home state of Texas.

“It’s a blessing, definitely a blessing,” Omenihu said via conference call. “My friends and family can definitely come and watch me play. Just a dream that’s finally been fulfilled and like I said, just a blessing. I can’t thank the Houston Texans enough for giving me this opportunity.”

The Texans selected Omenihu (6-5, 280) with their fifth round draft pick (161st overall). Omenihu was named the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and First-Team All-Big 12 by the AP and coaches following his senior season in 2018. In the Big 12 Championship Game against Oklahoma, Omenihu had three tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He recorded two tackles for loss in the Lonhorns’ 28-21 win over Georgia in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

“Omenihu’s length is what helps make him special,” Texans football analyst and sideline reporter John Harris said. “At the Senior Bowl, in particular, he gave a bunch of offensive linemen problems because they could never get into his person. He kept them at bay and then used his quickness and agility to win at the line of scrimmage. He made a ton of disruptive plays at Texas over his final two years and that’s what helped get him drafted by the Texans.”

Omenihu was a four-year defensive end who played in 51 career games with 33 starts, recording 99 total tackles (68 solo), 29.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for the Longhorns.

Kahale Warring Jersey

When Texans rookie tight end Kahale Warring was in high school, he made it a point to not limit himself to one sport.

Warring excelled at water polo and basketball, not playing football until his senior year. He was also a member of the cross country, swimming, soccer and tennis teams.

Warring walked on at San Diego State, earning a scholarship. His diverse athletic background paid dividends as he was drafted in the third round with the 86th overall pick Friday night.

“I think water polo helps a lot with your hand-eye coordination and just becoming an overall athlete,” Warring said. “Really, I think basketball is what transitioned the most. I played a ton of different sports in high school at the varsity level. All of that really helped make me a complete athlete. I took away so many different traits from each sport.

“I think basketball transitioned so well just because any time you’re lined up on a defender, similar to giving a guy an inside-out move and then getting past him and finishing at the hoop, just like in football you’re getting past your defender, you’re attacking him, you’re giving him a little move and you’re going up and catching the ball. I think football and basketball go hand-in-hand really well.”

Warring is 6-5, 252 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds. He bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times at the NFL scouting combine and had a 36 1/2 inch vertical leap.

Warring worked out privately for the Texans and visited them, too.

“Best available,” Texans general manager Brian Gaine said. “He’s another player that we got to know, spent a lot of time with here over the winter and here through the spring. He meets our prototypical standards, everything we look for from the physical standpoint and equally from the football character skillset, but a ton of upside here.

“A youthful player as it relates to his football experience, but a ton of upside. He’s been a multi-dimensional athlete (over) his career and we feel like the ceiling is high here. He’ll be a good addition for us both in the classroom, in the locker room, but also on the football field.”

Warring grades out highly for route-running, hands and punch as a blocker after adding 50 pounds since high school.

Warring led San Diego State as an honorable-mention All-Mountain West Conference selection with 31 catches for 372 yards and three touchdowns. He was sidelined for the bowl game due to a hamstring injury. He started just two games last season, playing in a dozen of them overall in a run-first offense.

Why did Warring concentrate on football?

“I’ve always been really curious about the sport,” Warring said. “I always wanted to play. My last chance to try to play the sport was my senior year of high school. My mom never let me play growing up. She said if you really want to play, then you’ll play in high school.

“I finally made the switch my senior year of high school. I really just played to have fun. Had a really fun season, and it wasn’t until later after the season my coaches said that I could play college football if I wanted to. I was excited because I really just fell in love with the sport.”

The biggest aspect of Warring’s game that needs work is his blocking.

“He has a chance to develop in the running game,” Gaine said. “There’s no physical limitation that should limit him in terms of his development in that area, and first and foremost, he’s willing to do it.

“Naturally, he’ll need time and experience on the job, but really there’s no physical part of his game that he should not be able to ascend and develop in that area.”

Warring has caught passes from Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson informally before in the Los Angeles area. Now, they’re teammates.

“I’m thrilled,” Warring said. “I actually got a chance to catch a few passes from him in the past. I think he’s an unbelievable player. I can’t wait to get with him and start working on things. I think he’s such an unbelievable leader.”

After Warring visited the Texans, he remained in Houston for an extra day to attend a Rockets game.

“I actually got a chance to go to a Rockets game when they were making all of those three-point shots,” Warring said. “I got a feel for Houston, and the next day I got to visit the facility and meet all of the coaches.

“So, I already feel like I have a good feel for the city and the organization. They were my No. 1 choice from the get-go.”

Max Scharping Jersey

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The Houston Texans got a behemoth who can move beasts in Northern Illinois offensive tackle Max Scharping.

With the club’s 55th overall pick in Round 2 of the 2019 NFL draft, Houston decided to take another offensive tackle after taking Alabama State’s Tytus Howard. With Scharping, the Texans get a decent lineman who ought to be able to help protect quarterback Deshaun Watson, as the Draft Wire’s Jacob Infante explains.

Scharping is a massive man at six-foot-six and 327 pounds. He is a solid athlete who can move laterally pretty well. The strength in his frame is impressive, and he can overpower defenders very well and counter bull rushes with his anchor. His power in his initial punch is notable on tape.

Scharping also has position flex as he played guard in his freshman year. With the drafting of the Northern Illinois product, the Texans are getting younger on the offensive line.

In addition to Scharping’s skills, general manager Brian Gaine also finds Scharping’s master degree impressive.

“It’s certainly a valuable asset to have,” Gaine told reporters at the end of day of the draft on Friday. “It just goes to show you their commitment to learning and educating and improving themselves. To me it displays their willingness to get better.”

If Scharping can combine his smarts and strength at the next level, the Texans offensive line will get better, too.

Lonnie Johnson Jersey

After addressing the need for an offensive lineman in Round 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans followed up in Round 2 by addressing their next most significant need with the selection of cornerback Lonnie “Lotto” Johnson Jr. out of the University of Kentucky. Johnson enters a Houston Texans secondary that has received a considerable facelift over the past few seasons, especially this past offseason with the departure of safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson and the additions of cornerback Bradley Roby and safety Tashaun Gipson. With the selection of Johnson, it is evident that he is the next step in the Texans attempt to add more defensive backs who fit Brian Gaine and the Houston Texan’s standards at the position.

Johnson easily surpasses the physical standards that Gaine and company hold in cornerbacks. Measuring in at 6’2”, 213 lbs. while also running an official 4.51 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and an unofficial 4.39 at his Pro Day, Johnson fits the prototypical mold of today’s NFL cornerback. Not only checking off the boxes in terms of his physical traits and ability to play man and press coverage, but Johnson also believes he can contribute at multiple positions if need be.

“I feel like I can play safety, corner, and nickel,” said Johnson at this past year’s NFL Combine. “I’m versatile. I can play any one, for real.”

Versatility is a trait that the Texans have valued highly over the years, whether it be a star player like Jadeveon Clowney playing outside linebacker and defensive end, or a role player such as Joe Webb having the ability to play quarterback, wide receiver, and even special teams. With that in mind, it makes even more sense why the Texans chose to select Johnson.

On top of his versatility, Johnson is confident in his abilities as a cornerback. Being compared to the likes of All-Pro corners such as Jalen Ramsey and Patrick Peterson, Johnson knows what he brings to the table and that there is still room to improve.

“I don’t mind being compared to two of the greats that play in the NFL right now,” Johnson responded when being compared to the two. “…I’m smooth, I can move my feet, and I’m not slow… I’ve only been playing corner for like two-and-a-half years. I’ve been playing receiver my whole life, so it’s different.”

Tytus Howard Jersey

HOUSTON (SPORTSRADIO 610) – With a need at tackle, the Texans select Alabama State’s Tytus Howard at No. 23 of the 2019 NFL Draft.

“The football intelligence, the passion and love for the game, has both physical and mental toughness, very dependable guy. He embraces the process of preparing to win in football. Everything that goes into it Monday through Saturday is excellent, and then we know he loves playing on Sundays,” Texans General Manager Brian Gaine told the media following the completion of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

It was rumored prior to the draft that the Texans favored Washington State OT Andre Dillard over any other offensive lineman in the draft. Philadelphia traded with Baltimore to move up to pick No. 22 and selected Dillard before the Texans had the chance.

Howard was considered an intriguing prospect that many thought would be available on the second day of the draft, but the Texans believe that Howard has the tools to be a key piece in patching up their offensive line.

Coming out of high school, Howard was a quarterback and had plans of being a tight end at Alabama State. He grew into a right tackle as he measured at 6 foot 5 inches and 322 pounds prior to the draft. While the pick was viewed by the pundits as a reach, Howard believes the Texans made the right decision.

“I’m just blessed to be a part of the Houston Texans, great organization,” Howard said. “I had a good feeling about the team when I went and did my visit, and they decided to draft me and I promise you they didn’t make a mistake.”