Lechler ready to play at home in Houston

Lechler ready to play at home in Houston
March 23, 2013, 4:15 pm
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Lechler: Playing in Houston 'a dream come true'

Words can’t describe this, getting to come home and play football, man, this is a dream come true.
—Shane Lechler on playing for the Texans

At around 6 p.m. on Friday night, when Shane Lechler’s family and friends started to hear the news, Lechler’s phone starting to ring.

And it didn’t stop.

Finally, around 11 p.m., Lechler, one of the greatest punters to ever step on an NFL field, stopped looking.

People are excited he’s back in Texas. Lechler is one of those people.

“Words can’t describe this, getting to come home and play football, man, this is a dream come true,” said Lechler, who officially signed his three-year deal with the Texans on Saturday and met with Houston media shortly after. “I was fortunate enough to play in the Silver and Black for 13 years and had a great time doing it. I always followed the Texans since they brought the franchise here.

“It’s just something that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I thought it was going to happen four years ago, but Mr. (Al) Davis offered something that I was not going to turn down. Now that that’s out of the way and signing here today in Houston, I’m very excited.”

See, the Texans were interested in Lechler four years ago but the Raiders made him a four-year offer for $16 million. That made him the highest-paid punter in the league’s history. It was something he just couldn’t turn down.

But as he played out those four seasons in Oakland, the Texas native thought he might have missed his final shot to play in Houston.

“I thought I did,” Lechler said. “I just didn’t know that things were going to line up like they did again for me. I thought that maybe I did lose the opportunity.”

The Lechler signing comes a day after the Texans announced the Ed Reed deal. In two days the team has brought in two of the best players to ever play their respective positions.

Lechler, 36, played high school football in East Bernard, Texas, a little town about an hour west of Houston. He played college football at Texas A&M, even though both of his parents played sports at Baylor. Now, his parents live in Sealy. One set of grandparents lives in Wharton, the other in East Bernard. And Lechler still lives in Richmond. He used to live in Katy.

“I’ve got a lot of support here and I think they’re all looking forward to it just as much as I am,” he said.

One of the text messages Lechler received on Friday night was from Texans’ kicker Randy Bullock, who like Lechler, played his college ball at Texas A&M. Bullock actually missed his entire rookie season with an injury after the Texans took him in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft. Shayne Graham, now a free agent, was the starter.

“I’m looking forward to working with Randy because he’s a great talent,” Lechler said. “Unfortunately he had an injury last year. As a rookie kicker, and looking back at it after me being in 13 years, I’m not saying that was a bad thing. He got to sit back and watch how the whole operation goes and learn from the outside looking in and be able to learn the flow of an NFL season.

“It’s not the same as college. You can see young guys come in and get tired toward that Week 12 or 13 area. He got to see it, live it and now he gets to go out and perform. I texted him back, you know, ‘I’m looking forward to working for you. Let’s go be a hero one of these Sundays and go win one for ’em.’”

Bullock isn’t the only Aggie connection on the team. In fact, Lechler was once recruited by Texans’ head coach Gary Kubiak in the mid-90s, when Kubiak was a position coach for the Aggies. The two had a chance to talk at the Pro Bowl last year and Lechler said it would be cool to finish his career in Houston.

The Raiders didn’t even make an attempt to retain Lechler, the NFL’s all-time leader in gross punting yardage. That surprised the six-time All-Pro but he said it’s in the past now.

Last year, the numbers were down a little bit. He had a gross average of 47.2 yards and a net average of 39 yards. Some of that might have had something to do with a minor surgical procedure Lechler had during training camp. He had a meniscus scope and said it took him a few weeks into the season to find his groove.

Now, he feels fine – much better than he did before the surgery last year, which is good because he’s played just 13 years in the NFL. That’s still seven away from his goal.

“One of my goals is to go 20 years,” he said. “I’ve still got a while to go and I feel like I can do it with no problem, barring any injury that comes out of nowhere. I’m ready and ready to go until they say, ‘You need to get out of here and stop doing this.’”