Jaelen Strong is not messing around.
After a rather underwhelming rookie campaign that was lightly sprinkled with plays that previewed what he could be, Strong is on a mission to prove that those few highlight-reel catches are the embodiment of what he will be. The second-year wideout has taken full accountability for his lack of conditioning and focus as a rookie, and yesterday he described to the Houston media what fueled his dramatic turnaround this offseason.
"There were times when I was questioning myself. I had to look in the mirror and really say to myself, it’s time to go. You can’t come this far and then give it all up. It’s time to go. So I took the coaching, I took the criticism, I took everything, and I just got right. It didn’t really matter, it wasn’t really about me at that point."
Asked about the role that complacency played in his lack of conditioning, Strong pointed out that today’s culture of athlete worship may have led to his poor preparation during his rookie offseason.
"That’s the biggest thing. When you’re making this jump, everybody is telling you the good stuff about you. Everybody’s telling you what you’re doing good. Nobody really has your best interest [in mind]. So at that point you’ve got to dig deeper, and when I came here the organization really cared about me. They really showed that they really wanted me here, and to repay that I’ve got to go out there and work every day like it’s my last day."
"I was going down the wrong road and people were [only] telling me good things. Nobody was really telling me what I should have heard. I came here, and it was what I should have heard."
Stories like these are the direct byproducts of Bill O’Brien’s culture of accountability. Jaelen Strong had a famously voracious work ethic while at Arizona State, but it was not until he showed up to his first NFL practices that he truly realized the level of dedication that it takes to be a professional football player. O’Brien and his staff challenged Strong to rise up to their standards, and to his credit, he did just that. It may have taken an extra twelve months to finally happen, but Strong is finally ready to become the receiver that the Texans always thought he could be.
2016 is looking more and more like it is going to be one hell of a special season, folks.