Lemon turning heads despite limited reps

Lemon turning heads despite limited reps
August 2, 2013, 9:00 am
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Alec Lemon is one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of Syracuse University football.

The 6-1, 207-pound receiver owns the single-season and career reception records. He’s third on the all-time list for career receiving touchdowns and he’s second in all-time receiving yards, fewer than 200 yards behind eight-time All-Pro Marvin Harrison.

But none of that means much anymore.

Now, Lemon is fighting for a job with the Texans. He’s fighting to get noticed. Heck, the undrafted free agent is fighting to just earn some more reps.

“I don’t get many reps but I try to go out there and make the best out of everything I have and try to make a play every time my number’s called,” Lemon said. “Just executing and being on top of my game.”

Through a week of training camp, Lemon has turned into one of the more consistent contributors of the wide receivers and realizes he’s starting to turn the heads of coaches, fans and media.

“It’s interesting, I actually told him one day, I said, ‘Alec, you’re not getting a lot of reps,’” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s buried on the depth chart a little bit, but every time he gets a chance to make a play, he seems to make it. That’s impressive. That’s what he did in college. He’ll get some opportunities here in the preseason and we’ll see if he continues to do it.”

Lemon is one of the 11 receivers at training camp (only 10 are practicing; DeVier Posey is on the PUP) and he’s one of four undrafted rookie wideouts all battling for time. But that hasn’t stopped Lemon from standing out. He has some of the best hands in camp and they have been on display from Day 1.

But one catch really stands out.

On Tuesday, during 11-on-11s, Lemon broke downfield and one-handed a beautifully thrown ball from backup quarterback Case Keenum. Lemon caught the ball while running against the left sideline in the end zone while wearing cornerback Roc Carmichael, who was all over him.

“It was just a go route and he had inside leverage,” Lemon said. “He got my right hand and I couldn’t really free it, so I figured I might as well try my left hand and try to keep my feet in. I looked on film and I was good, so hopefully the refs will call the same thing.”

While plenty of onlookers have started to take notice of his receiving skills, Lemon knows that won’t be enough to make the team. Special teams will be key.

Lemon was a star player at Syracuse, so he wasn’t used on special teams after a couple weeks into his freshman season. If he has any chance of making the 53-man roster, he’ll need to prove he can be a contributor in those areas.

Lemon’s been working on all the special teams units in camp, which he likes because it allows him to show off a wider range of skills. He thinks that can only help him.

“Really, going to special teams, I have to approach it like it’s my starting position,” Lemon said. “I have to change my mentality and focus. Having Coach Joe (Marciano) and he and Coach (Bob Ligashesky) can teach me so much. It’s on me if I really want to take the technique and be a great player.”

Lemon said the difference between the NFL and college is the grind. He spoke to the difficulty of learning the playbook, playing offense and special teams, and pushing through it while being tired. Lemon has been looking up to Andre Johnson since coming to Houston for rookie camp in May.

The Texans called Lemon very shortly after the draft and told him he’d be with the team all summer and would get reps, which was important to the Syracuse product.

No, he didn’t get drafted but he’s past that.

“It’s everyone’s dream to get drafted but not everyone does,” Lemon said. “You have to get here some way, so I’m looking at it as a blessing that I’m here.”

And now he’s making the most of it.

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