When former Ohio State play-caller C.J. Stroud was selected with the second overall pick in the 2023 National Football League (NFL) Draft, he never fathomed leading his new, young Texans team to the possibility of postseason play.
Yet heading into the final week of the NFL season, Stroud and the Texans find themselves somewhere they haven't been since 2019: one win away from a berth into the playoffs.
"As our guys said, we didn't come this far just to get this far," first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans told the official Houston Texans website following the team's win over Tennessee in week 17 of the season. "We have a lot still to play for that's ahead of us."
And that's absolutely true.
Stroud, Ryans and the Texans as a whole control their own fate as they hit the road to battle the Indianapolis Colts in week 18 on Saturday, Jan. 6, at 7:15 p.m. Central Time on ABC and ESPN.
The only thing on the line? A postseason berth.
"The time is now," Stroud said. "It's not next year. It's not the year after that. It's right now. We have the opportunity to control our own destiny. I'm excited to do that."
Coach Ryans and the Texans couldn't ask for a better leader, player, and quarterback who is sure to lead the league in numerous categories for years to come.
It's rare for a rookie NFL quarterback to make an impact in the league in their first year as a professional play-caller.
It's even more rare for a rookie quarterback to be successful and turn their team around from cellar to contender in just one season.
But yet that's the case with Stroud and the Texans, who sit at 9-7 on the season after winning just three games in 2022.
Stroud is special, to put it simply.
He's also more than just special; he's a one-of-a-kind player who can and will turn the Texans franchise into a winning organization.
With newly-hired head coach and fomer Texans player Ryans at the helm, and running his team with a constant smile and beaming confidence, Stroud is a perfect fit in Houston.
From day one, Stroud impressed fellow teammates and the coaching staff.
Then, the season began.
Game one wasn't one to write home about, but Stroud quickly righted the ship and he's looked on course ever since.
At 9-7, the Texans actually have a shot of making the playoffs -- and they're just one win away from making that happen.
That's something Houston fans haven't heard in years, and it's music to their ears.
Let's be bluntly honest: the success of the this season started -- and ultimately ends -- with Stroud.
Thus far, he's put on a show for the ages -- and will likely be hearing many more "MVP" chants at home for many seasons to come.
One thing is certain: Stroud is the real deal, and he's proving it every Sunday.
And, hopefully, Saturday as well.