HOUSTON — The Houston Texans honored first responders, so crucial during Hurricane Harvey and subsequent relief efforts, prior to kickoff of Sunday's regular-season opener. The responders were incorporated as Texas flag holders, the Color Guard, “Homefield Advantage captains” and coin toss captains.
A moment of silence was held before kickoffs league-wide as fans and teams honored the victims of Harvey while Hurricane Irma ravaged Florida on Sunday.
During pre-game introductions at NRG Stadium, the Texans defense was introduced. As players sprinted from the tunnel, each held either the American flag or a Texas state flag.
Defensive end J.J. Watt was introduced last, and drew a massive response from the crowd. Watt, whose Houston Flood Relief Fund started with a goal of $200,000 and surpassed $31 million as of kickoff, wore cleats during with the colors and design of the Texas flag.
Twenty minutes prior to kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars, several members of the local police force held together three pieces of fabric that together composed the Texas flag. Then Toro, the Texans mascot, glided down a zipline from the top of the stadium to the field, also holding a Texas flag. Once he landed at midfield, he held up a sign that read “WE ARE HOUSTON STRONG” inciting a roar of cheers from the crowd.
Additionally, vendors all across the stadium are selling T-shirts with the words “HOUSTON STRONG” on them, and the franchise is hosting a Houston Texans Foundation Silent Auction. Proceeds from both will go to the Red Cross and the United Way Relief Fund, respectively.
After the Texans’ final preseason game was cancelled, fans who had purchased tickets were given the option to donate the price of admission to relief charities in the area. Donations eclipsed $500,000, and the team announced that it was going to match the contribution.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attended the game.
In several neighborhoods here, piles of water-logged debris are still stacked up in front of homes as the area tries to recover after absorbing record-setting rainfall. Some buildings still bear an uncomfortable reminder of what happened just two weeks ago — a straight, horizontal line marking where the floodwaters once reached.
Unfortunately, the Jaguars have hurricane concerns of their own, and they may remain in Houston after the conclusion of the game. Florida is dealing with the effects of Irma, which is projected to slide up the Gulf Coast of the state, though impacts are already being sustained on the Atlantic side, where Jacksonville is.