Just because he was the second overall pick in the draft and has been anointed as the Texans’ franchise quarterback doesn’t mean Coleridge Bernard Stroud IV expects any special favors from his coaches or teammates.
Stroud, better known as C.J., plans to earn everything he gets during the team’s offseason program, including the OTAs that began this week. He’ll have to work his way up the depth chart competing with veterans Davis Mills and Case Keenum, but everyone knows Stroud’s destined to be the starter, possibly by the opening game at Baltimore.
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Stroud, who doesn’t turn 22 until October, has the mentality and philosophy coach DeMeco Ryans, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik and quarterback coach Jerrod Johnson expect from their players.
“What I love about it, nothing has been given to me,” Stroud said after Tuesday’s OTA at Houston Methodist Training Center. “I have to earn everything, which I love. It’s been like that my whole career, so it’s nothing new. It’s about the whole squad. This team has been very accepting of me, very honest, and very transparent. It's amazing to be around great people and great players as well.”
Stroud starred at Ohio State as a redshirt freshman and as a sophomore before entering the draft and competing with Bryce Young to see who would be the first overall pick. That distinction belongs to Young because he was selected by Carolina. General manager Nick Caserio didn’t hesitate taking Stroud when the Texans were on the clock.
As soon as Stroud arrived in Houston, he started impressing his coaches and teammates, especially with his work ethic.
“C.J. has been the same from the pre-draft process to now,” Ryans said. “Hard worker, a very intelligent guy and a true competitor. (I’m) excited to see him on the field working with his teammates. C.J. has been doing an excellent job these past couple days.
“The process with all our players is to improve and get better each day. When the fall comes, that's when we'll talk about starters and who’re the best 11 men to help us win games.”
If all goes according to plan, the Texans will enter the season with their fourth starting quarterback in four years. Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor and Mills preceded Stroud. When Watson’s career began to unravel after the 2020 season and caused him to be shipped to Cleveland on a wave of controversy, Caserio had to resolve his situation before looking for another franchise quarterback.
The Texans never wavered in their support of Stroud. They embraced him during the scouting process and kept their intentions private. When Stroud heard his name called after Young, he was thrilled and relieved. He couldn’t wait to get to NRG Stadium to start showing Caserio, Ryans and the McNair family their faith in him won’t be wasted.
“It's a dream come true,” Stroud said. “I've been working for it my whole life. I feel like I'm built for this. I'm made not just to play football, but to use football to help inspire people and lead people to God. I have plans for what I want to accomplish on and off the field. I'm excited to do that with this great organization.
“I’m trying to embrace the relentless swarm coach Ryans wants us to be on. He’s a young coach who knows how it is to play in this league and play for the Texans. He knows a lot about the city of Houston, and he knows what comes with playing here. He's been great, very vocal. He's really funny, too. It's cool to have a coach who's not stuck up all the time or like super mad. He's been amazing -- very transparent. Communication has been great. He's going to be a great head coach.”
Stroud is confident. He knows what his strengths are. He also knows how much he has to learn and that he’s going to fail. It’ll be up to Slowik and Johnson to pick him up mentally to make sure he learns from his mistakes and remains confident at the most difficult and important position in football.
“I think I'm a natural-born competitor, so that's what I'm here to do,” Stroud said. “At the same time, being a great teammate is more important. I plan to be a great teammate, be vocal and confident. I feel like I’ve done a decent job so far, but I’ve got to keep growing every day.
“It’s not going to happen overnight. I’m going to have growing pains. I’m excited to be in the quarterback room with Davis and Case and to push each other and help each other. It's been an amazing couple of weeks for me. I’m very grateful for the opportunity. (I’m) trying to push myself, learn from the older guys, get all the feedback I can, be on the film, be here early, all the little things to push myself to be great.”
Last week, Tom Brady posted pictures on Instagram and wrote about a recent meeting hosted by Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin. Brady, Rubin and Houston native Travis Scott met with four rookie quarterbacks – Stroud, Young, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. The idea was for Brady and Scott to tell their stories – how they got to the top of their professions -- and provide advice for the quarterbacks.
“It was amazing,” Stroud said. “It was a blessing to have two people who took the time to come and give us wisdom – two people who’ve done it at the top level in their industries. Learn things on the field, off the field, how to conduct yourself, how it's supposed to look in the locker room, the weight room, business -- everything you can think of we talked about.”
Every day is going to be a learning experience for Stroud, so he has to make sure to listen to the right people. Learning from the greatest quarterback in history is a good way to start.
John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on SportsRadio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He writes three columns a week and does two Houtopia Football Podcasts for SportsRadio610.com.