It has been the month of a lifetime for Arundel High School graduate Alec Lemon, whose dream of making the NFL became a reality on August 27 when he was retained and placed on injured reserve by the Houston Texans.
Lemon, who grew up in Crofton and is Syracuse University’s all-time leader in receptions with 201, originally signed with Houston in May as an undrafted rookie free agent. On August 25, Lemon had five catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in the Texans’ final preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. Despite subsequently suffering a hamstring injury, the 6’2,” 202-pound former Wildcat star nonetheless made enough of an impression on the Houston staff to be retained on the Texans’ 75-man roster and placed on injured reserve.
Lemon, who is living and rehabbing his injury in Houston, spoke with the Voice’s Peter Crispino about his path to the NFL since graduating from Syracuse in May.
Peter Crispino: What was your attitude going into training camp with the Texans?
Alec Lemon: Coming into training camp with 20 other free agents and all the draft picks, you really have to work hard to prove yourself, but it was exciting—I got the opportunity to show an NFL team what I had. I was disappointed to not get drafted, but things happen for a reason and you have to start somewhere…From the first day of training camp, coming into this organization, I knew what type of player I was and I knew I just had to go out there and show them who I am and why I’m here, and try to make a name for myself.
PC: During your first few days with the team, was it surreal to be out there on the field with so many big-name players? Was there ever a moment that left you a little star-struck?
AL: Definitely when I first got there and saw that my locker was right next to Andre Johnson’s, who is my favorite player. It leaves you a little star-struck seeing all these players who you’ve watched on TV and now they’re your teammates—it’s crazy. Sometimes it still feels unbelievable being here.
PC: Besides Andre Johnson and first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins, there’s really not much depth at receiver on the roster. How do you view the opportunity in front of you?
AL: That’s part of the reason I signed with Houston. I had other options, but I saw that Houston was looking for receivers, and I felt like I’d have a great opportunity to show them my skills and hopefully make it on the roster as a receiver and help out on special teams. I just saw it as an opportunity that I can chase. I can take this as far as I want it.
PC: Tell me about your game against the Saints. What was it like to get in the end zone for the first time as an NFL player?
AL: As hard as it is to score a touchdown at any level, to be able to do it in the NFL, it was like a dream come true. It was so exciting. I got to keep my first NFL touchdown ball, so I’m pretty pumped about that. I’m always going to keep that with me.
PC: What is your physical and mental approach for the next six months as you come back from the hamstring injury?
AL: Physically I’m just trying to get my hamstring back day by day. It feels better every day, so hopefully I’ll get back on the field and start running routes and participating in drills again. Mentally it’s pretty tough because I came here to play and I’m not playing. It’s difficult because I’ve never redshirted or sat out or not played football [for this long] my whole life so I have to adjust to that. But I’m really just taking this year off to learn the playbook, learn how to be a pro, stuff like that—really get into film study and learn my way around an NFL organization.
PC: Have you received advice from any veterans, either before or after your injury?
AL: The whole wide receiver corps is really close, so they told me [the injury] is sort of a blessing in disguise. I had the chance to get cut because of my injury, but they saw something in me they didn’t want to let go so they put me on IR which is really a good thing in my situation. They told me to take this time off to get better as a person and as a football player and come back stronger than before.
PC: How did you feel when you were told you’d made the team, albeit on injured reserve?
AL: When I first heard it, I was really excited knowing that I made the team, but it was also bittersweet because obviously I wanted to play, but I’m happy to be able to say I’m part of an NFL organization.