Owen Daniels (Marco Garcia/AP)
Although the Texans finished with a disappointing 8-8 mark this year, they are well represented at the most sought after game to be at that means absolutely nothing.
One of the three Texans in attendance at the Pro Bowl is tight end Owen Daniels, who caught 70 passes for 862 yards, both career highs, in the league’s third-best offense. Daniels is a one of the league’s best third-down threats, and his rise to stardom is surprising to most, including Daniels.
“It’s came a little faster than I expected,” Daniels said about his journey to this point in his career. “When I came to Texas, I just wanted to make the team and contribute in some way and fortunately I became a starter right away and I was fortunate to get some looks from the quarterback and my team has helped me to get a lot better.”
Daniels is one of the forgotten guys, so to speak, in the Texans offense as Andre Johnson is one of the game’s best wideouts, and Matt Schaub and rookie star Steve Slaton seem to get most of the acclaim. At the Pro Bowl, Daniels definitely flies under the radar as there are legions of fans screaming to talk to the likes of Troy Polamalu, Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis, among others.
Daniels himself seemed just a little bit star-struck as well when he arrived.
“It’s awesome to be out here with some of the best guys in the NFL, guys I watched growing up,” Daniels told Battle Red Nation. “It’s such a great experience.”
When asked which guy he was most interested in meeting the answer came right away.
“Peyton Manning,” Daniels said with a smile. “Even though we play against him twice a year, I’ve never really met him before. He’s one of the nicest guys around, and he took time out to have a conversation with me, as we were hanging around the pool and stuff. I was like, ‘oohh, that’s Peyton Manning!’ He one of the guys around here, sort of ‘Mr. Pro Bowl.’
Manning returned the compliment when asked about Daniels.
“Owen is a great target with great hands,” Manning said.
Daniels believes that having himself and two of his teammates in Hawaii is a sign of great respect from his opponents.
“I think it means we’re getting some more respect around the league from our peers and coaches and fans,” Daniels said candidly. “I think when we get to the playoffs and become a winning team, everyone will get a lot more recognition, not just a few guys at a time. We’re getting there, we’re close and I think we were a little off this year and I’m looking forward to next year.”
When asked how his team will try to get over the hump next season, Daniels talked about the offense specifically.
“We lost some close games and most of that was due to the offense turning the ball over,” Daniels said. “I think we were in the top five in yards per game and moving the ball, but scoring more points and not turning the ball over in crucial situations. We may have led the league in turnovers. If we cut down on those a little bit, it would help us out.”
If the Pro Bowl is any sign of things to come, big things are on the horizon for this Texans team in 2009.