EDITOR’S NOTE: Texans rookie tight end James Casey was kind enough to grant an interview to HoustonDiehards.com despite his busy schedule. I tried to ask a couple of questions that were a little different from the typical “are you going to play QB in the Wildcat for the Texans??” type fare. James gives some insight into his blocking skills, his friends on the team, and of course – the main thing everyone wants to know from every NFL player – their reaction to the new movie BRUNO.
Let’s start off by clearing up a common misconception about your skill set. A lot of draft prognosticators said you were strictly a pass-catching tight end at Rice, and that you weren’t a good blocker. Is it more accurate to say that in the Rice offense, you simply weren’t asked to block that much?
I am glad you brought that up, because that is exactly what I was thinking going into the draft. People were saying that I can’t block, but I was thinking that it is not that I can’t block, I was just not asked to be a blocker on the line of scrimmage in college. The type of offense we ran at Rice worked for us, but unfortunately I think it hurt me a little in the draft. Things happen for a reason though, and I am extremely motivated now. Now it is my job to prove to the Texans that I can be a great blocker and help the team win. I am looking forward to the challenge.
You mentioned retired Texan TE Mark Bruener in your latest blog entry on HoustonTexans.com. What is it about Mark, specifically, that makes you want to keep in touch with him and pick his brain?
First of all, Mark is an extremely nice person and a great guy, so it is always good to be around people like that. On top of that though, he has played TE in the league for 14 years, and he spent the last 5 years with the Texans. Everything that I am going to go through, he has already been there and done that, so he is an extremely valuable resource for me to have to talk to. I am looking forward to picking his brain some more about training camp, so I can be as prepared as possible. I also look forward to staying in contact with him, because I know there are going to be some things along the way that I will need help with.
At the NFL Combine, you really turned a lot of heads. What are a couple of the teams, if you feel comfortable discussing it, that you thought had the most interest in drafting you?
The draft is a very stressful ordeal, but at the same time I just tried to keep it in perspective and realize that there are a lot of people who would love to be in that situation. The hardest thing about it is that you have no idea which teams like you or dislike you. The only thing I could do is look at teams that I thought needed a TE, but even doing that I really had no idea who was interested. I just tried to focus on what I could control. I have no regrets about it, because I know I worked as hard as I could have. I am glad it worked out the way it did though. Now I get to stay in Houston, and hopefully help them win a lot of football games.
You mentioned in a recent blog entry that you have been watching tons of film from last season. What are some of the things about the NFL game that stand out to you as they compare to the college game?
I have mainly been watching film as a refresher to learn the plays, but you can tell that everything happens a lot faster. The obvious things that stand out are that everyone is bigger, stronger, and faster. The hardest thing for me though, is learning the playbook. The rookies are put into a completely new system where most of the veterans already know what is going on. They kind of just throw you out there, and it is either sink or swim. Everything is starting to slow down now, and I just have to make sure I am on top of everything when training camp starts.
What are your early impressions of Kyle Shanahan? He’s starting to develop a bit of a “mad scientist” reputation, and your versatility would seem to make you guys fast friends. I know it’s early, but talk a little about some of the conversations you’ve had with him.
My early impressions of Coach Shanahan is that he is extremely smart. I really don’t get to have too many conversations with him, because I am always with Coach Pariani trying to learn the TE position. I know Coach Shanahan is going to do whatever is best for our offense though, and my job right now is to prove to him that I can help this team win.
Who are some of your closer friends on the team at this early stage? Are all the rookies pretty much socializing only with other rookies?
Anthony Hill and I have become very close friends. Our lockers are right next to each other, and we are both going through the exact same things right now. We have a lot to relate to each other about, and it is nice to have someone to talk to who is going through the same thing I am. I am also close to the other tight ends, because we are around each other so much. I also got a chance to get to know the other rookies at the Rookie Symposium, and right now I would say that it is pretty much rookies socializing with other rookies. I think as a rookie, we have to earn the respect of the veterans before they socialize with us too much.
Hopefully we’ll see Owen Daniels on the field soon, but in the short time you’ve been around him, what are some of the things you feel like you can learn from him?
Owen Daniels is obviously a great player, so I think the best way I can learn from him is to just watch how he goes about his business on and off the field. I like to think we are kind of similar, so having him around is a huge benefit to me. He is a great all around tight end, so I am just trying to be like a sponge and pick up anything I can from him.
Can you talk a little bit about the process of being courted by agents, and how you cut through all the BS/double-talk to find the right fit for you?
Deciding to declare for the draft was probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make, and deciding on an agent was right there behind it. I really didn’t meet with too many agents. I was looking for an agent who was reputable amongst the teams, trustworthy, easy to get in contact with, someone I knew was going to work hard for me, and just an overall honest and nice guy. I decided on Jeff Nalley from Select Sports Group here in Houston, because he fit all those criteria. He came into my apartment and was very honest and straightforward with everything. I knew he was the guy right after he left, but of course I still did my due diligence. I am very confident with Jeff. He is a great guy and I trust him with everything.
Anything new with your contract situation? With all the bad contract news that’s gone on this off-season, the fans are ready for some good news. Do you think it will be much longer before you sign your deal?
No, nothing new with the contract situation, but I don’t think it will be much longer.
Some players say it’s the competition, some say it’s the physicality – what is your favorite thing about football? What gets you excited on game day?
It’s tough to pinpoint one thing, because I love everything about football. If I have to say one thing, it would just be that I have always wanted to be the best at anything I do. I hate losing and I never want to let any of my teammates down by not playing as hard as I possibly can on every single play.
I don’t know if you’ve actually been a close follower of the NFL, but if so what player or players do you feel like you have a similar game to? Who would you compare yourself to?
I already mentioned Owen Daniels, but other players I like to watch are Jason Witten, Chris Cooley, and Dallas Clark. I like to see these players be successful, because it gives me hope that I can be a good player in this league also.
Finally, (and awkwardly) I saw on your Twitter page that you saw Bruno the same day I did. Ahem, yeah, so uh… what did you think about that? There are many things in my life that I’ve seen that I wish I could UNsee… this movie contained several of these things.
Let’s just say there were some uncomfortable moments.
Yeah, uncomfortable moments. That’s pretty much the understatement of the year. Heh.
I want to say thank you one more time to James Casey. He’s very accessible to fans, as you can plainly tell by checking out his portion of the Texans on the Web feature. It’s good to know that there are players out there who will lend some of their time to blogs and fan blogs, instead of only letting TV/Radio/Newspapers get some insight.
I’ll see if I can track James down again at the start or near the start of the season, and we all wish him luck in training camp and pre-season.