As we moved into topics outside of the X’s and O’s, I joked with Justin Reid of the growing number of players from Stanford on the Houston Texans, and if they were taking over as the smartest school of players in the locker room.
Q: We’re seeing a growing influence of former Stanford players in the Houston Texans locker room with Peter Kalambayi, Brennan Scarlett, and now Michael Thomas. Is it fair to say that the Stanford players are the smartest in the locker room or are there some hidden geniuses in the Houston Texans locker room that we should know of?
A: I think all the Stanford guys do well, I think there are plenty of other smart guys in the locker room. There is a different type of intelligence, I think there is a different of IQ when it comes to football IQ versus an educational IQ. We do all these quizzes in the locker room, and PK [Peter Kalambayi], Brennan [Scarlett], and Mike [Thomas] are near at the top of the list, but also guys like B-Mac [Benardrick McKinney], and J.J. Watt.
Those guys are also at the top of the list too. I think that what this organization really likes and prides itself on are guys that are smart tough and dependable. Guys that are reliable, and reliable meaning, they know the right calls and not make many mental mistakes. In the National Football League, mental mistakes will kill you. I still think there is a correlation to guys from Stanford being reliable in the sense that we are going to know the playbook and make the right calls.
Q: Now to talk about the role of a philanthropist in the city of Houston. The work you have done has resonated through Houston and in many ways, you embody Lebron James’ slogan, “more than an athlete”. Who and what in your life influences you to give back to the community?
A: I didn’t grow up in the most affluent neighborhood in Louisiana. I didn’t know it because it was all that I knew, but what has always been so helpful to me is that I have always had big brothers in the family sense and in the mentorship sense around me. I had a great coach that I remember looking up to in Coach Brown from high school, Coach Benny Saia also from high school, I had great mentors in college through Coach Duane Akina and some of the donor families that I met with.
I’ve never been afraid to ask or reach out for help and people have always responded and been great resources and mentors to me. I feel the best way that I can repay those people because I didn’t make it to where I am on my own. I understand that, the best way I can repay those that have helped me is to pass the torch along and find the next generation of kids and do what I can to help them.
I’ve heard countless stories of kids that come from bad neighborhoods, then someone takes them under their wing and shows them the right way of doing things. They give them an opportunity and then that kid goes on to get a four-year college degree and start their own business. All they need is an opportunity and an education.
It really is a big deal to give back to the community. Everything that I do, for the most part, I really like to focus on the next generation, and how I can help them with the basic essentials. First of all food, no one is going to learn anything if you don’t have food taken care of at home. Safety and protection, and educational resources. How I can help them learn, how I can teach them skills that will benefit them later in life and allow them to be healthy contributing members of society.
Q: You seem to be a great fan of Game of Thrones. You probably had the best Halloween costume as the Night King. In the show, a person’s last name carries a lot of weight. How proud are you of your last name and what pressure (if any) comes with it?
A: It does carry a lot of weight and that’s for everybody. Who you are doesn’t affect you, it affects everyone who is around you. It affects the reputation of your family your parents your siblings. those are the connections of people to you. I’m super proud of my brother, I’ve always from the beginning back when I was in college. My parents have raised me and my siblings to all stand up for what we believe in, and not be afraid to do what’s right. Don’t be a guy that just goes with what everybody else is doing.
Be the one that takes the road less traveled if that is the right road to be on. They taught us a lot about morality, compassion, and doing what’s right. So I have always been super proud of my last name, my family, what Eric, Ryan, and Christina are doing. It does carry some weight, and it does in some instances put some spotlight on what I do.
I’ve known since the protests started in 2016-2017 that I was getting asked questions about it back then. I always had conversations with my brother and he filled me in. I’ve always been aware and supported him from the get-go.