HOUSTON - Every year, a player who many of us have never heard of breaks through and threatens to make a roster spot during Training Camp.
Undrafted free agent Willie Jefferson hopes to be that guy.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Jefferson “I guess it’s my time to show when it’s my time to play, I can play.”
And if there is one person that knows about seizing on an opportunity, it’s Jefferson.
The undrafted free agent line backer out of Stephen F. Austin is 3 years removed from being a wide receiver at Baylor. However in 2010, he was dismissed from the Bears football team for violating team rules. Jefferson and a teammate were arrested after police found them passed out in a Taco Bell drive thru near the Baylor Campus.
Both men were charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession after police found marijuana in the car.
Jefferson signed on with SFA soon after, switching positions. In 2012, he collected 36 total tackles, including 8 sacks, drawing the attention of several NFL teams. The Texans took a chance on him.
“All those things are in the past,” said Jefferson. “Right now, I’m just trying to show growth right now.”
Because of so many injuries and uncertainties in the line-backing core, Jefferson climbed up the depth chart, even taking reps with the first team defense after LB Whitney Mercilus went down with a hamstring injury.
The chance to play with the starters was more than he could have ever imagined, but it was quickly put into perspective when we went up against Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown.
“It was a privilege. I want to say Pro Bowl tackle against a free agent rookie. I just took my time and did my best,” Jefferson said. “It showed me that I need to get better at some things and showed me that I’m good at some things.”
“He’s interesting. He got a lot of opportunities in OTAs. He flashed in OTAs and everybody saw his ability,” said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. “He’s got a lot of ability. Ability and opportunity. We’ll see if he can take advantage of it.”
Like most rookies, Jefferson has sought out the advice of several veterans on the team, including Antonio Smith. Smith is a player who the converted wide out models his game after.
“I guess these last couple years, me watching defensive players, people like that coming off the ball fast, quick, using their hands, and using a lot of moves to get to the quarterback,” said Jefferson.
Kind of like what J.J. Watt does right?
“Oh, that’s something special right there,” Jefferson said with a smile.
Equally as special for Jefferson is getting to make the most of his second chance.