Texans’ Bouye always thought Bortles was special

Texans’ Bouye always thought Bortles was special
April 28, 2014, 10:00 am
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In the last few years, Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye has watched Blake Bortles go from a redshirt freshman battling for playing time to a potential No. 1 overall pick.

Bouye – who was a teammate of Bortles' while at UCF before being picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Texans last offseason – always saw something special in Bortles but didn’t necessarily think his 6-5 quarterback would end up being a first-round pick.

Now, the two could end up being teammates again if the Texans decide to take Bortles with the first-overall selection on May 8.

“I’m not going to say I saw him as a first-round draft pick,” Bouye said on the phone late last week. “We weren’t throwing it as much my senior year. He had some good wide receivers this year. They allowed him to throw more. That just helped out a lot with him. I could tell that he was just studying and getting better and it showed.  

“I do my research, especially during the season. A lot of people had him mid-round. It was a little bit of a surprise to see him jump up like that but now you realize that he’s a first-round quarterback.”

Bouye said he first saw something special in Bortles when the quarterback was in his second season after red-shirting. He came into the year as the backup behind Jeff Godfrey. Eventually, Bortles began to earn more and more playing time. “I just saw how special he was that season,” Bouye said.

Two years later, Bortles has become one of the favorites to become the first player taken in the draft in early May. Less than two weeks ago, the Texans hosted Bortles at NRG Stadium for an official visit. On that Wednesday morning in mid-April, Bouye had a chance to have a quick chat with his former teammate at breakfast.

“He was just asking me how I like it here,” said Bouye, who made the team last season but hit the IR after six weeks with a hamstring injury. “He’s just hoping that he’ll come. He said he really liked it here from what he saw.”

When asked who he was pushing for the Texans to draft, Bouye took the political route, saying he was excited for whomever the team drafted, adding that he trusted the coaches and front office to make the best decision.

But Bouye is also very confident Bortles will make a good pro. The first thing he mentioned when asked about Bortles was the quarterback’s smarts. He said Bortles is “strong, smart, competitive.” Bouye also said the Texans wouldn’t have to worry about anything off the field. He called his former teammate a “good character guy.”

According to Bouye, Bortles isn’t one for drama. He called him “laid-back” and said the quarterback was pretty quiet and just took care of business in practice and in games.

But what really impresses Bouye about Bortles is the way the quarterback handles himself on the field.
“You just watch him and practice and in games, he just has so much composure,” Bouye said. “He never gets panicked. He’s just smart. And then, his build on top of that. He’s big, his height. And he has speed for his size. And what we really liked to see was that he would compete, not just with the teams in our conference but the SEC, the Big 12. He’s not intimidated by anybody.”

Bortles was good in his sophomore season (Bouye’s senior year) in 2012. Both players were named to the All Conference-USA second team. That year, Bortles threw for 3,059 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 144.5 passer rating.

But then Bortles took an incredible step forward and toward being a first-rounder during his junior season. In 2013, Bortles threw for 3,581 yards with 25 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 163.4 passer rating.

“He just turned it up a notch,” Bouye said. “He really stepped it up.”   

Bouye was obviously not able to attend most of the Knights’ games in 2013 because of the NFL schedule but did get to UCF’s game against UConn during the Texans’ bye week. That week, Bortles had one of the best games of his college career. He threw for 286 yards, a career-high four touchdowns, zero interceptions and had a passer rating of 238.4 in a 62-17 win.

“It was cool just watching him grow up,” Bouye said. “Watching him play, watching the whole team play. They were freshman when I came in so it was good watching them grow up, especially him.”