Texans fullback Prosch can’t wait to crush

Texans fullback Prosch can’t wait to crush
June 10, 2014, 8:00 am
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(USA Today Images)

Jay Prosch is a masher, a crusher, a destroyer.

The Texans’ sixth-round fullback made a name for himself at Illinois and Auburn as a punishing hitter and blocker as a fullback but he can’t show off any of that just yet. OTAs, by rule of the CBA, are non-contact practices.

Prosch won’t be allowed to start mashing in the NFL until the team gets to training camp in late July.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “This is a different world for me as far as doing 7-on-7s and stuff like that all the time. So I’m ready to get to what I know.”

For now, the NFL has been a learning process for Prosch. He’s been trying to learn the playbook, run his routes and get accustomed to being a pro. But, yeah, the 6-1, 256-pound fullback – who’s built like Ben Grimm from “Fantastic Four” – can’t wait to start hitting.

In fact, he said there’s even a specific mindset a fullback needs to have.

“I definitely think so,” Prosch said. “You have to be able to kind of not have to worry about hitting people and not have to worry about … I guess just get in your own zone. That’s how I play. Whenever it’s time to block somebody, I just get in my own zone and different mentality than I normally am and I start wrecking people.”

Prosch might have always had that mindset but he wasn’t always a fullback. In high school, he played offensive line and linebacker. He didn’t become a fullback until he arrived at Illinois and was put at that position by then-Illini head coach Ron Zook, who identified Prosch’s blocking ability and mobility and thought he would be a good fit at fullback.

And Zook was right. It just took a little while to click.

Prosch was concerned when told about the switch and camp heading into his freshman season was pretty tough.

“I had a really hard time adjusting and then all of a sudden, the guy in front of me hurt his leg and I was the starter after that,” he said. “And going into our first game, it just clicked.”

Prosch ended up having a very good four-year college career. He spent his first two seasons at Illinois, then transferred to Auburn to be closer to his mother, who was suffering from cancer. She passed away during his junior season. By the time he was drafted this spring, Prosch was considered one of the top fullbacks in the class.

But the NFL has trended away from the use of fullbacks during this pass-happy era. And the diminishing role of fullbacks in the NFL was something Prosch would occasionally think about while in college.  

“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “I never really thought about it too much because I was trying to be the best I could at the time. I knew if that opportunity came, it would be in the future. But obviously, you think about it a little bit and there was a little bit of concern.”

To put it in perspective, the two fullbacks in the Pro Bowl last season were Mike Tolbert and Marcel Reece. Tolbert played just 58.7 percent of his team’s offensive snaps last season. Reece played just 48 percent.

So how does Bill O’Brien see the fullback position in his offense?

“I think anytime you’re in the draft and you have a situation where you can help your team personnel-wise on offense by drafting a fullback like Prosch, and we also have Toben Opurum here too,” O’Brien said. “I think that helps your football team. Training camp will be the true test for a fullback. It will help the toughness of your football team, it helps on special teams.  A two-back running game is always a good thing. I think anytime you can line up in 21 personnel and run the football, and play action, it is a good thing.”

O’Brien sees value in fullbacks but Prosch said the team hasn’t yet sat him down to talk about how they plan on using him in the offense. But he thinks he’ll be asked to run an occasional route and maybe even get a carry here or there.

But he knows his biggest job will be to block. And in Houston, he’ll get to block for three-time Pro Bowler Arian Foster.

“It’s been great,” Prosch said. “He’s obviously a very good running back and just being able to watch him do things like avoid linebackers on routes and the way he moves and things like that are great for me to see because I can try to take skills that he has and incorporate them in my game. It’s been great for me and obviously, he’s a great guy.”

The two have been working together some during OTAs but Prosch admitted the pair needs to reach a higher level of familiarity. Prosch needs to know what kind of runner Foster is and needs to know how Foster reads blocks.

But Prosch thinks that familiarity will take care of itself once they get to camp in pads. Oh yeah, and he’ll be able to start hitting people then too.

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