Last weekend, we all sat around our metaphorical fire—the computer monitor—and thought up our top five favorite all-time Houston Texans. We each came up with the following list. Give it a read and then post yours below.
He’s the quarterback this franchise has needed since inception, and he’s the future. He eviscerated one of the all-time best defenses in NCAA history to earn a national title in one of the most exciting football games I have witnessed, and it was incredible to see the great ‘Bama fall. His family was a recipient of a home from the Habitat for Humanity charity by Warrick Dunn, another player I admired greatly. That experience clearly helped to shape Watson into the compassionate and mature leader he is today. I eagerly tune into the Texans games just to see what magic he can deliver to help his team win.
2. J.J. Watt
One of the most complete men in history, and as close to a super hero as anyone can be with the limitations and imperfections that come with human mortality. His best performances on the field seemed physically impossible to the eye. He has always led by example, has stayed well grounded and humble, and gives everything he can in efforts on and off the field. “The Hero of Hurricane Harvey, and the Slayer of Andy Dalton.”
3. Andre Johnson
He was the lone superstar for the Texans throughout most of their history. He was always soft-spoken, humble, kind, and generous to those in need throughout the community. His highlight reel is loaded with amazing memories for Texans fans. I wish he had been surrounded with complimentary talent to give him a shot at a championship. One of the smartest, toughest and athletic wide receivers ever!
4. DeAndre Hopkins
At a time when it was clearly the waning years of #80’s career, Houston was able to bring in a new #1 wide receiver to mentor under Andre Johnson and carry the torch forward. D-Hop’s catch radius is one of the best in NFL history, and he had a knack for miracle catches at the most desperate times in any game to keep the team’s chances of victory alive.
5. Arian Foster
I’ve never seen a guy with a running style like his. It’s like he would glide through defenses as if poetry was streaming off his shoes. An undrafted running back who showed the world how to achieve anything they put their heart into. His genuine and transparent personality off the field was also admirable.
1. Andre Johnson
There aren’t many players in the league who can say they physically carried an entire franchise for over an entire decade. Johnson was the best thing to happen to the Texans until Watson. He was the first true star on the roster and was the most humble player too. I was at the game where he smacked Courtland Finnegan. I was at most of the miraculous games and days. Johnson represents an era of Texans football that doesn’t have much to lean on, but is important all the same. The way he left was unfortunate, but he’ll always be a favorite for me.
2. J.J. Watt
What can’t be said about J.J. The largest icon in Houston sports and arguably one of the best defensive lineman to ever play. An instant Hall of Famer, Watt redefined what it meant to be a pass rush threat in the 21st century. One of the most genuine humans ever, Watt’s philanthropic endeavors have touched countless lives in this city. His pick-six against the Bengals in the first playoff game was the loudest I’ll ever hear the stadium. He’s sacrificed his body and health for this team and city - something that we won’t soon forget. By far the most dominant player I’ve had the please of watching first hand. It honestly doesn’t feel like he is a Texan at times - it feels like he belongs to the NFL because his impact can be felt across the country. He should have a ring, but unfortunately, nothing has come together for him.
3. Brian Cushing
Cushing ushered in an era of great Houston Texans defenses. He brought a mentality that was not seen before on this team - tenacity. We were always known as being “too soft”. A team that once down, was good as gone. Cushing elevated the play of the entire team and locked down the center of the defense for years. I have Cushing’s jersey at home because he resembled a turning point for the Texans where they started putting players together. He also represents the first instance where I fell in love with the draft. I was at the Texans stadium when they announced his selection. What a great player to talk about and a true character of a man.
4. Vonta Leach
Nothing put a smile on my face more than hearing “LEAAAAAAAACCCHHHHH” throughout the stadium when he caught a four-yard pass from Schaub in the flats. The definition of an “unstoppable force”, he was the thunder to Arian Foster’s lightning. He reminds me of that scene in Independence Day where the President says “Gentleman, let’s plow the road!” There aren’t many highlights of Arian Foster where you don’t see Leach obliterate a linebacker. Leach left too early, but he was asking to be the highest-paid fullback in the league in an era where fullbacks were becoming outdated.
5. D.J. Swearinger
A player who could also go down as many people’s “Least-favorite players”, I loved Swearinger’s swagger, play style, and demeanor. I would don his “two spoons” celebration in college and it kind of caught on among our friend group. He never materialized into a high-impact safety, but has had a good career in the league and is still playing. He was drafted in the same year as D-Hop, and was considered a steal in the draft in the second round. The antics which occurred throughout his time in Houston were the first signs of Bill O’Brien’s unwillingness to put up with any BS. It also doesn’t help when your dog bites Jadeveon Clowney, but that neither here nor there.
1. Andre Johnson
There can’t be any other one. He was the first great player in franchise history. He ran the smoothest routes I’ve ever seen, all while being a dominant physical force. A complete receiver. A future Hall of Famer. He produced no matter who the quarterback was, whether it was Case Keenum, or T.J. Yates, no matter which week it was, he always brought it.
2. Jadeveon Clowney
Being football good is better than being box score good. I’ve never seen a player dominate and disrupt an offensive game plan in the manner he does. It’s raw and brutal straight forward movement, and some of the plays he makes are unreal. Whether it’s drunken master dive bombing on ‘A” gap blitzes, or knocking the puller into the running back for a tackle for a loss someone gets the credit for, Clowney is a continuous source of surreal barbaric football play.
3. J.J. Watt
His 2014 season was the greatest individual season I’ve ever seen. He won games single handedly that season. He’s the only player who has made recovering fumbles a skill, instead of desert luck. Watt could and can make every play a defensive linemen can make. Whether it’s swimming, planting, chasing down running backs behind the line of scrimmage from the back side of the play, to beating offensive tackles with every pass rush move imaginable: ghost-rip, rip, bullrush, long arm, speed-rip, he can do it all.
4. Brandon Brooks & Derek Newton (Brewton)
Sometimes I feel like the past never happened, and I don’t remember or care about anyone who intersected with me before, and other times, like right now, I miss everyone all at once. Watching these two players develop from prospects to a great right side in Houston was the best thing about the Texans’ offense from the time Matt Schaub’s arm fell apart to Brooks’s departure to Philadelphia, where he became one of the best offensive players in the league. Brooks learned to become a dominant snap by snap player, and Newton learned how to play lower to consistently win his snaps. It’s despicable what Von Miller did to him
5. Danieal Manning
Manning was the lesser remembered free agent signing Houston made in 2011 to bolster an all-time terrible pass defense. He made two of my favorite plays in franchise history. The forced fumble against Chicago in 2012, and the kickoff return against New England in the Divisional Round in 2012. I felt at the time that Houston belonged and this was a special team after they won a bloodbath game Chicago on Sunday Night football, the type of game they would rarely win, and that maybe Houston had a chance after his kickoff return to the redzone in New England. None of these things were true. But these were beautiful thoughts to have at the time, and naive illusions are one of the most beautiful thoughts anyone can ever have.
Honorable Mention: A.J. Bouye
It was one year of great play, but he was a key component of the best secondary the Texans ever had in 2016, and was the main reason why Houston’s defense was able to flourish even without J.J. Watt.
1. Andre Johnson
For me, Andre will always be the team GOAT. The man dealt with a revolving door of quarterbacks until Matt Schaub came to town. He played “grown man” football. The echo of the Cortland Innegan game still bounces around my head from time to time. Not only was he a legendary player, but he cared deeply about the community. Andre spoke softly and carried the biggest stick.
2. Deshaun Watson
The young legend never ceases to amaze me. When I lived and breathed CFB, Deshaun was one of my favorite players. He’d constantly do ridiculous things against stiff opposition. The final drive against Alabama in the 2017 National Championship Game is one of my favorite sequences of football to watch. With Deshaun at the helm, I feel like the team always has a shot. He’s also faced so much adversity on and off the field. His resilience and humility aren’t something you see every day.
3. J.J. Watt
No matter the order, J.J. has to be on anyone’s top five list. He’s one of the most dominant defensive players that the league has ever seen. Unfortunately, injuries have plagued J.J. the last couple of years. However, the stretch from 2012-2015 will go down as one of the most dominant performances ever. If there’s a play that comes to mind, it’s easily the pick six against the Bengals. I don’t think I’ve ever been more hyped up in my life.
4. Johnathan Joseph
I remember the offseason that J-Jo came to town. That was the year of the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes. The media was hyping up a handful of teams that were in the mix to sign him. I think I might have actually prayed that we signed Asomugha at one point. Eventually, Asomugha signed up for a spot on the “Dream Team” and the rest is history. At first, the Joseph signing felt like a consolation prize. Boy, was I wrong. Jonathan came in and immediately produced. He was a lynch pin in our secondary for years. He’s arguably the greatest free agent signing in Texans’ history. Normally when a significant player moves on to another team, I feel a bit salty about it. My instinct when Joseph signed with the BESFs was to be mad. However, and maybe this is a sign of me maturing a little bit, I feel happy for J-Jo. He gets to keep doing what he loves, and we’ll always have his time in Houston.
5. Jadeveon Clowney
Clowney was the prize jewel of the 2014 NFL draft. In the weeks leading up to the draft, Houston was basking in the national spotlight because of the No.1 pick. The argument was need vs. best player available. Seeing the legendary Outback Bowl hit and Clowney’s highlights had me absolutely salivating. The man was an athletic freak that could flip an entire game, when he wanted to. Much was made of his injuries his last season at SCAR, and also of his work ethic. Greatness is achieved when potential meets effort. That being said, I knew that no matter what Clowney was the best choice at No.1. When draft night rolled around, I think I may have done a couple of laps around the kitchen when the pick was announced. His tenure in Houston was marred with injuries, but also saw a good stretch of production. My heart yearns for a reunion, but it’s highly unlikely. Regardless, Clowney had me excited for the team’s future after Matt Schaub had been shipped to Oakland.
1. Arian Foster
For how he challenged the local media, for being unique and completely unlike any other pro athlete. For rejecting the tired cliches and lazy nature of a lot of sports journalists. Truly a one-of-a-kind athlete and person.
2. J.J. Watt
Simply for being the best football player I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. I’ve never seen one better. Sure, I’m biased but I’ve never seen a game-wrecker like JJ Watt. For being an upstanding citizen who helped pull my battered city up when it was needed most. For embracing his corniness, working harder than everyone else, and not changing who he is because the “cool crowd” doesn’t like that he enjoys his fame.
3. Andre Johnson
For his quiet leadership, his consistency, his toughness, his ability to do things a guy his size shouldn’t. For beating the sh*t out of Cortland Finnegan. For loving Houston and still embracing a role with the Texans even though they wasted his prime with mostly garbage QBs and mismanagement.
4. Duane Brown
I love Duane Brown and I was enraged when the Texans traded him. Stalwart tackle, nasty as hell on the field, social awareness and activism, and brushed off the haters after a rough first couple of seasons.
5. Deandre Hopkins/Jadeveon Clowney
Hopkins is like no other receiver I’ve ever seen. Other than his ability to win contested catches, he’s not the best I’ve seen in any category, yet I firmly believe he is the BEST WR in the NFL. Clowney I love because he had so much unfounded bullsh*t against him and yet there he was, always wrecking offensive lines, having the most ridiculously lethal first step I’ve seen in a defensive lineman, and he had a great sense of humor. He was another guy who was different and didn’t want to be an NFL robot. I’ll always be “mad” at Bill O’Brien for trading these two away, just like I’ll always be “mad” at Bob McNair for getting rid of my No. 4 name (because NO WAY Bill O’Brien was in favor of that).
1. Deshaun Watson
No player is more important than the QB.
2. Arian Foster
3. J.J. Watt
4. DeAndre Hopkins
He did not drop this pass.
5. DeMeco Ryans.
The embodiment of the blue collar player who just happens to be elite.
1. J.J. Watt
Seriously, how could anyone not like #99? He’s arguably the greatest defender in NFL history, he generated more help for H-Town after a hurricane than the Red Cross did and he plays tag on national TV with his brothers.
2. Jadeveon Clowney
I don’t know what it is, but something about watching this freak of nature play just really excited me when he was a Texan. While there’s basically no chance he’ll come back to Houston with O’Brien here, I hope the next GM enters the picture with enough time to bring back JD in his prime.
3. Arian Foster
See my notes in the Top 5 Greatest Running Backs post. The guy was so much fun to watch, sliding, slipping, diving, juking... ALL. THE. THINGS. that make a running back great, Foster had.
4. Deshaun Watson
My all-time favorite college quarterback gets drafted by my al time favorite pro team? What’s not to love? Just watching him make magic from a mess Sunday after Sunday is a memory of sports fandom I’ll always remember fondly.
5. Andre Johnson
Like Foster, see the notes in the Top 5 Greatest Wide Receivers post. Andre was unstoppable, indefensible, dominating and electric. Everyone in the stadium could know he was getting the ball and he’d still make a play and then some. His off-field love of the kids in Houston was just icing on the cake.
Who are your five favorite Texans?