The chants must have been hard for the fifth-round rookie quarterback to ignore. The Reliant Stadium crowd was chanting “T.J., T.J.” early in his first career start.
Yates had come a long way since February, when he was only an afterthought at the NFL Scouting Combine. He was a “combine arm.”
“They invite you, but it’s pretty much the last three guys” Yates told Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports after Sunday’s win. “You go on the first day and stay all the way to the last day to throw to the defensive guys and stuff. It was kind of annoying because you’re there for eight days straight.
“I was ready to get out of there, especially on the last day. I probably threw like 150 deep balls to [defensive backs] during their drills. Just a hired arm.”
Fast forward to Sunday. Yates completed less than half his passes, but he averaged 7.5 yards-per-attempt, threw for a touchdown, and didn’t have any turnovers.
The Texans will probably be better off with Yates than Matt Leinart in the long run. Yates was willing to go down the field. Gary Kubiak showed confidence in his rookie during a team meeting Saturday.
“Hey, if you guys think we’re gonna dumb things down for T.J. and only give him a certain amount [of our offensive package], you guys are wrong,” Kubiak told his team, according to tackle Eric Winston.
Kubiak was unaware of Yates’ combine duties.
“He was a slappy? Ha, kind of like I was,” Kubiak said.
From slappy to starter on a 9-3 team. Yates is a fascinating story, and we get the sense he will be anything but an afterthought this January.