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Hungry & Humble: How Rookie Jalen Pitre Became Texans Camp Star

Rookie safety Jalen Pitre is shining with the Houston Texans' secondary.

HOUSTON -- Jalen Pitre pauses for a moment to think of the right answer, though slowing down might be a challenge for the Houston Texans' rookie safety in as much as he's been moving fast ever since April's draft. 

Pitre, an All-American safety from Baylor and native Houstonian, remains home to begin his professional career. Loyalty has always been huge for Pitre since his high school days at Stratford

He remained committed to Baylor, the only school not to pull its offer after he tore his ACL during his senior season. He doubled down on his loyalty to the program when Matt Rhule departed for the Carolina Panthers and the school brought in LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda

Loyalty returned the favor in the form of Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and a record-setting season for the Bears' program. It continued for Pitre in the form of his hometown team selecting him No. 37 overall. 

And with the season on the horizon, the rookie is set to be one of the biggest impact guys on Houston's roster.

"I thank God for putting me here and allowing me to do the things that I’m able to do," Pitre said. "I would have never guessed that he would have put me here in Houston to play in front of my home city. It’s very wonderful that he chose me, and I’m very thankful for it.”

It's easy to get starstruck watching Pitre line up in coverage at Texans' training camp. Every snap, it feels as if No. 5 is heat-seeking his way into making a play. 

Fans see it. Coaches see it. Teammates see it. All are vocal about his impact early in practice, too. 

"That boy is a dog," tight end Brevin Jordan said. "I'm excited for him. He's instinctual, he plays fast and he's already out there making plays."

"He's very smart. You wouldn't know that he's a rookie," nickel defender Tavierre Thomas said. "He isn't making the little rookie mistakes."

Pitre is still learning to work the ins and outs of coach Lovie Smith's defense. Adaptability isn't new to the 5-11, 200-pounder, as during his five seasons in Waco, Pitre was asked to play various roles. 

Under Rhule, Pitre played more of a traditional safety. With Aranda, he was more of the 'STAR' defender, a hybrid of nickel defender and linebacker with a hunger for tackling. That was evident in back-to-back seasons as Pitre tallied 29.5 tackles for loss in two seasons. 

One area Pitre credits Aranda in his development is his ability to pay attention to the little details. That starts in the film room and later translates to the field. 

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"Coach Aranda is a smart coach, very aware coach, and he’s always looking to get better and always thinking about the next step," Pitre said. "I see that in (cornerback Derek) Stingley and I try to take after that with Aranda, as well. He was a great coach and I’m happy that I got to play for him.”

Stingley, the Texans' first-round pick, also is a disciple of Aranda, having played for him during his All-American campaign at LSU in 2019. 

Both players are viewed to be cornerstones of the franchise. Both are projected to be starters in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts. 

"He's intelligent, smart, everything we're looking for in a safety, he has," Smith said of Pitre. "Can't wait for him to actually play his first game.”

Smith won't be waiting long. On Saturday, Pitre will see his first NFL action against the New Orleans Saints. There's no telling how many reps he'll see or how long he'll be on the field, but expect the rookie to play simply to get his feet underneath him. 

Family and friends will be in the stands cheering him on. Unlike some first-year players, crowds of people coming to watch the Pitre is common. Waco is roughly three hours away from Houston, and plenty made the trip over the past five years. 

Just outside the defensive back room hangs a sign that reads “I’m good.” It's meant to read that way as a reminder that there's always room for improvement. It keeps players hungry and humble.

Pitre's humility knows no bounds. He's also knows that this is just the start of something he's worked for and more is still to come. 

"I'm just continuing to go up," said Pitre. "I feel like I haven't really reached any plateau yet. I've got a long way to go.”


You can follow Cole Thompson on Twitter at @MrColeThompson

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