FRISCO, Texas — Houston Texans players admitted a feeling of helplessness. As their city flooded, all they could do was watch on TV.
So, from 276 miles away, they did what they could.
They FaceTimed with family; they prayed; they raised money — lots and lots of money; and they dedicated their season to the City of
“Football’s obviously important, but I think the most important thing right now is doing everything we can for our city,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “I will tell you right now: We’re going to dedicate this season to the city of Houston, the people of Houston. There are no guarantees in football. That’s not what I’m here to say. But I will guarantee that this team will go out every Sunday, Monday, Thursday, whenever they ask to play, and we’ll play our asses off for the city of Houston. I promise you that.”
While the Texans played the Saints in an exhibition game Saturday night in New Orleans and then practiced at the Cowboys’ training facility Monday and Tuesday, their minds were elsewhere. Hurricane Harvey left unprecedented flooding in its wake, more than 50 inches in some spots in the Houston area.
“It’s like a punch in the gut,” cornerback Jonathan Joseph said. “You want to be back there for your city, your family, of course your kids. They’re obviously young. They don’t really understand exactly what’s going on, so you try to explain it to them, talk to them as much as you can and keep them at ease. But, I think, all in all, it’s kind of a touchy situation for everybody. Everyone’s involved, and you just want to say your prayers and let God handle everything else.”
When the Texans left for joint practices with the Saints on Aug. 22, Hurricane Harvey wasn’t even a hurricane, with the National Hurricane Center having downgraded it three days earlier. Instead, it was merely a disturbance lacking a well-defined center as it approached the Yucatan.
But by the time the Texans arrived in DFW early Sunday morning – unable to return to Houston – the National Weather Service was calling Harvey “unprecedented and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced.” Roads turned into raging rivers and houses filled with water.
“It’s tough. It’s tough not to be there,” O’Brien said. “We have players who are dealing with water in their homes. We have three coaches that are in neighborhoods where there’s mandatory evacuations, a couple of coaches that are in neighborhoods where there’s voluntary evacuations, players the same thing. We’re trying to do the best we can to keep everybody together.”
When they weren’t meeting or practicing, players were in their hotel rooms watching television coverage and checking on family.
Tom Savage’s daughter, Summer, just turned 7 months old. His wife was stocked up on baby food and diapers and had help from her mother, but it pained him not to be there with them.
“She’s the most amazing baby in the world, and obviously I want to be there with her,” Savage said. “But I know my wife has it under control. Here, you kind of feel a little handcuffed. You can’t do anything. As a father, you want to be there and you want to be there to support her and protect her. That’s the hardest thing for all the guys. I can speak for them. They all want to be there. We’re the fathers. We want to be out there.”
Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt didn’t sit idly by. He started a fundraising campaign Sunday night to help the victims of the storm. Within 48 hours, he had raised more than $4 million, including $1 million from Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk. By practice time Wednesday morning, Watt’s drive was over $5 million with a new goal of $6 million.
“It’s very, very tough,” Watt said. “It’s very difficult to watch your family, your friends, your city go through a time like this and not be there to help, not be there to go through it with them, not be there to experience it. Our thoughts are most definitely with everybody. We hope everybody stays safe.
“We’re just trying to do whatever we can to help from afar, because we can’t get there. We can’t help physically, so we’re going to help raise that money. . . . We know what’s about to happen. We know that once the storm stops, there’s going to be massive, massive recovery efforts. and we want to be there. We want to be ahead of it so we can really get a jumpstart on getting these people back on their feet.”
While the Texans had a sense of helplessness, being so far away, they were not hopeless. On the contrary, players insist they will travel home full of hope. Hopeful for their city. Hopeful for their season.
“When I got drafted here, I kept hearing that term ‘Texas Tough.’ Everyone is ‘Texas Tough,'” said Savage, a fourth-round pick in 2014. “It really shows in these situations. Houston is a really resilient city.
“Everyone’s out there. Everyone’s fighting. Everyone’s battling. I know as a city we will get through this.”
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