Texans safety Jalen Pitre reflects on rookie season, talks coaching search

CYPRESS, Texas — The crowd that had gathered in the Verizon Wireless store waited patiently for the man of the hour to appear out of the back room. Houston Texans fans held mini-helmets, jerseys, posters, etc., all waiting for the autograph of the player they had watched play 17 games this season.

As Texans safety Jalen Pitre approached the area, fans began to get excited as the homegrown young man from Stafford, Texas, flashed a big smile and spoke to each person with that “Southern Hospitality” that all Texans fans have grown to love.

“It’s a blessing,” said Pitre about his appearance for the Verizon sweepstakes, where a fan will win Super Bowl tickets for the next three years beginning this year. “Everyone does not get chosen to be in the league and do stuff like this, so I am very thankful that I get the opportunity to come out here and see some fans today.”

Pitre, 23, played high school football for Stafford before receiving a football scholarship to play at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where later in his career, he would receive the 2021 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award. The Houston Texans selected him with the 37th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Growing up in the Greater Houston area, Pitre told reporters that he was unaware that events like the one he hosted were available to fans when he was younger.

“I really wasn’t aware that they had stuff like this,” Pitre said. “I would have definitely went out and seen all the great Texans like Arian Foster (running back) and Andre Johnson (wide receiver). They were my favorite players. So, I definitely would have went and seen them.”

Pitre turned many heads during his rookie campaign. He recorded 147 tackles (99 solos) to lead the Texans and all rookies in the category. Over the last six games, he averaged 11.6 tackles per game and had a season-high 16 on December 4 against the Cleveland Browns. His five interceptions were second only to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen, who finished the season with six.

“I look back and say it was a great year,” Pitre answered when asked about his rookie season. “I got a good amount of turnovers and was very impactful for the defense. Looking forward, I want to do a lot more. I will continue to improve.”

The Texans are interviewing candidates for their coaching position after firing former coach and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith after the season’s final game against the Indianapolis Colts.

That means that Pitre will have a similar experience as he did when he played for Baylor. After committing in 2015, coach Art Briles was terminated due to a scandal. Matt Rhule was hired in 2017 and stayed two seasons before moving on to the NFL. His last two collegiate seasons were under the guidance of current Bears head coach Dave Aranda.

His mindset heading into his second season is the same as it was in college.

“I don’t think it matters when you are talking about the scheme, whether he is an offensive or defensive coach,” Pitre said about whomever the Texans select as the next head coach. “The biggest thing is you want to make a good first impression and show the coach that you love to work, you care about the team, and you want to get your job done. That is what I am looking forward to, and really excited about getting this new coach.”


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Story originally appeared on Texans Wire