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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) — For a moment the No.7 jersey looked a little out of place in comparison to the sizable players around him as the Texans took field as a unit for the first time Monday during OTAs.
Obviously while just a short drive from the University of Houston campus, the Cougars former quarterback Case Keenum is in a far different universe at the Texans practice facility. The most prolific quarterback in college history began Monday to really absorb what it’s like going from being the star player to an undrafted free agent trying to make his mark in the NFL.
“It was good, it was fun and it’s a blast. They pay you for this so it’s a lot of fun,” the 6-foot-1 Keenum said of his first full squad practice with the Texans. “I’m really excited to be out here and be a part of this great organization and looking to move forward and get a lot better because I’ve got a long ways to go.”
Keenum took a positive first step Monday due in large part to his absorption of the Texans playbook and his desire to learn what he obviously does not know. His learning curve will be aided during the OTAs by the fact he will get more than the usual number of reps given to a rookie undrafted free agent quarterback because starter Matt Schaub is being held out the team drills while his injured foot continues to heal.
Second-year quarterback T.J. Yates is taking the starters reps which leaves the backup reps to be split between veteran free agent John Beck and Keenum. The latter two will likely compete for the No.3 spot when camp opens in the fall.
“It’s hyper drive,” Keenum said. “I’m trying to learn as much as possible as I can every day, every second when I’m taking reps and when I’m not taking reps standing in the back and watching those other guys go.”
It’s a huge transition for Keenum, who was the player others watched and learned from most of the last five years. Now it is Keenum who is back in school but he welcomes the change.
“It’s fun. I take the challenge as exciting and a new adventure,” he said. “It’s been fun learning a new offense and all the little things and watching film on Matt and T.J. and those things they do well and learning from those guys.”
Keenum certainly faces an uphill battle to make the team considering the lesson the Texans had to learn last season when their top two quarterbacks went down with season-ending injuries in back-to-back games and the ball was suddenly thrust into the hands of Yates. Beck or probably another veteran quarterback who comes available likely seems a better option as the third-string quarterback for a team that has aspirations of reaching the Super Bowl this season.
But so far Keenum has seemed to impress head coach Gary Kubiak, the coaching staff and even his new teammates with his ability to pick up the complex timing offense.
“He’s obviously very talented,” Schaub said Monday. “You don’t do what he was able to do at UH without having a lot of talent so it’s just a matter of him learning what we do and our scheme, how we play the position here, our timing and our footwork. It’s all different from place to place but it’s something he’s got to get use to. He can throw it around and make plays.”
But for now, Keenum is just trying to get use to his new surroundings and the reality he is competing for a job with the team not far from the campus where he once starred.
“It’s very surreal, and it’s a lot of fun,” Keenum said. “I have to pinch myself every now and then but it’s beginning to work and I’m trying to get better every day.”