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Nwachukwu Hoping to Catch Opportunity

By NATE GRIFFIN, Sportsradio 610
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(Credit: Hanna Foslien /Getty Images)

(Credit: Hanna Foslien /Getty Images)

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HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – Earning a roster spot at the position of wide receiver won’t be easy because the Texans only keep 5 or 6. However, there’s a good chance that EZ can stick with the Texans in some capacity, maybe the practice squad. EZ is the nickname of undrafted rookie wide receiver, Uzoma Nwachukwu, who had a standout career at Texas A&M. 

During EZ’s senior season, the Aggie receiver started all 13 games under first year Head Coach Kevin Sumlin en route to an 11-2 season, which included a huge 29-24 win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. One could argue that A&M’s victory at Tuscaloosa was the biggest story of 2012.

With Johnny Football (Manziel) running the controls en route to winning the Heisman Trophy, EZ snagged 26 passes for 485 yards and 7 touchdowns. He ranks fourth on the Aggies’ receptions list with 152 career catches for 2,239 after starting 44-of-52 career games. EZ is tied for third all-time with 19 receiving touchdowns.

The question for the Texans coaching staff is whether or not EZ’s skills and numbers translate to the NFL and whether or not he can be a good fit. The answer is ‘quite possibly’ when considering the Texans starting receivers and Special Teams opportunities.

“I think I fit in pretty well,” says Nwachukwu. “We have a pretty good group of receivers and everybody has different skillsets and I think we all complement each other pretty well. So, I’m feeling pretty good.”

LET HISTORY BE OUR GUIDE

Interestingly enough, the most arduous challenges for rookie NFL receivers revolve around learning route trees, absorbing the playbook, and understanding how to defend themselves and excel against grown men in the secondary who’ve been taking advantage of defenseless rookie receivers for decades. There are a few wide receivers who came into the league as men such as the Johnsons, Andre and Calvin, Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Harold Carmichael, Carl Pickens, and Louis Lipps.

However, if you want to stay somewhat local and compare undrafted rookie wide receivers, allow us to present former Dallas Cowboy great, Drew Pearson. Undrafted out of Tulsa in 1973, Pearson became a 3-time Pro Bowler, a 4-time All-NFC selection, a member of the 1970’s all decade team, and helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl XII. By the way, Nwachukwu hails from Dallas.

So, history proves that undrafted rookie wide receivers can earn roster spots. But, Nwachukwu also knows it will take more than just showing up at practice.

“The main thing is, you have to realize that it’s a job and that it’s 24-7. You can’t be – like ok – I’m going to rest right here. Or, I’m going to watch TV because you have to be in your book. You have to take care of your body and get ready to go the next day. So, there’s no rest and (you have to) just really stay in your book.”

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Speaking of staying in the book, EZ has actually been in a similar book for the last three-plus seasons at A&M. By all accounts, he has a good grip of Gary Kubiak’s offense.

“Lucky for me, I was with Coach (Mike) Sherman for three years (at A&M prior to Sumlin) and I kind of grasp the whole offense and some of the terminology,” says Nwachakwu.

Mike Sherman was A&M’s Head Coach from 2008-11 and the Texans Offensive Coordinator during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. EZ benefitted greatly from Sherman’s A&M/Texans playbook.

“If I wasn’t with Coach Sherman, my head would be exploding right now because there’s a lot of little things you have to study and that you have to know to get this offense.”

NFL coaching staffs love guys who enter camp knowing the playbook which is why we can now assume Nwachakwu is in Texans training camp! He also brings special teams experience. It’s easier for EZ to articulate the language in meetings which makes for a very slight learning curve. The biggest advantage is his ability to elevate his level of execution on the field.

“(It’s) the same concepts, the same terminology, and things like that. So, lucky for me, I was in it for three and a half years and got to really study under Mike Sherman and that whole system.”

SYSTEM ALSO INCLUDED JOHNNY FOOTBALL

Yes! This story also includes Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel. The many post-Heisman stories regarding alleged autograph signings for pay that violate NCAA rules continue to mount and there’s no relief in sight.

Regardless, Manziel and Nwachakwu were teammates who helped elevate Texas A&M to levels never before reached. While EZ is proud of what he and his Aggie teammates accomplished in 2012, he says it’s not easy watching the negative whirlwind of news surround Manziel and A&M.

“It’s rough seeing your school go through it. You know, that’s the main thing – seeing that A&M was back in the limelight with winning and things like that. Now, it’s sort of towards the down-level because of those allegations and those things like that. So, that’s just the main thing – seeing A&M talked about like that – it’s horrible.”

There’s still roughly two weeks prior to the kickoff of the college football season which means decisions on whether Manziel will play could be decided by either the NCAA or Texas A&M. The Aggies will kick off at noon on August 31 against the Rice Owls at Kyle Field in College Station. When asked whether or not Manziel should play versus Rice, Nwachakwu showed confidence in his former head coach making the right call.

“I’m not really sure about that. But, I know one thing – Coach Sumlin is a great coach and he knows how to handle things like that. As much as everybody thinks things are kind of crazy down there, he has everything locked down pretty tight.”  

EZ, of course, will follow Sumlin’s lead in attempting to lock down a roster spot with the Houston Texans. Of course, we will be watching.

Follow me for the latest on twitter @coloranalyst.

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