Case Keenum knew he was home from the moment he stepped off the plane and into Houston.
“The humidity just hit me right in the face and I felt right at home,” Keenum said on Wednesday.
Now, he said, it’s time to get to work.
Keenum, 26, was signed this week after the Houston Texans lost their top two quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage, in last week’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and after Keenum spent the first 15 weeks of 2014 on the St. Louis Rams practice squad.
An unsigned free agent in 2012, Keenum, the NCAA’s all-time passing leader, spent his first two seasons with the Texans, going 0-8 as a starter last season in relief of the injured and ineffective Matt Schaub.
Keenum completed a mere 54.2 percent of his passes with 1,760 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions last season. Despite flashing glimpses of promise early in games, Keenum became known for his struggles in the second half, indecisiveness in the pocket and holding onto the ball for far too long.
He spent the offseason learning head coach Bill O’Brien’s system, but was one of Houston’s last roster cuts on Memorial Day weekend.
But with the 7-7 Texans still mathematically alive in the AFC Playoff race, and with a pivotal matchup this week against the Baltimore Ravens, Keenum may have a chance to earn some staying power in the NFL.
“If you’re breathing there’s unfinished business,” he said. “For me, it’s an opportunity to compete. I love competing. Anytime I get a chance — today at practice — I love to go play football.”
It’s unclear whether Keenum will actually get that chance on Sunday. Though he seems a logical choice to be O’Brien’s next starting quarterback, the first-year head coach has yet to make an official announcement.
It’s possible he doesn’t name a starter until Friday.
If he does get the nod, Keenum said it means the world to him to be able to it in front of Houston fans.
“It means a lot,” he said. “This is home, this is home for me. I heard a coach say the other day that I really admire, ‘When I die, they’re going to bury me in Texas, they’re not going to bury me in St. Louis.'”
Though he has familiarity in O’Brien’s system, Keenum has nearly as much time removed from it as he did in it.
Keenum knows he has some catching up to do.
“Just study,” he said.
“Just living in the quarterback room, watching film, just going over everything. Just trying to take it a day at a time, and attacking the day.”
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