HOUSTON — Tom Savage stood in the center of the shelter for those affected by Hurricane Harvey at the NRG Center on Thursday, surrounded by cots, passing out hats and taking pictures with fans.
Savage, along with 54 of his teammates and members of the Houston Texans’ staff, spent more than an hour meeting with some of the people who have been displaced by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. They also took photos and signed autographs.
Chris, a 10-year-old fan, ran up to Savage to ask him to sign his football, and then a game of catch ensued. It started with a short pass, and then Savage told him, “Go deep.”
Chris ran back and made the catch.
“Go deeper,” Savage said, and Chris ran behind a row of cots. He dropped two balls before catching the third pass. Savage put his arms in the air, and Chris ran toward him, cheering.
Chris’ mom, Antonia, who requested her last name not be used, looked on with tears in her eyes.
“I was sitting down on the cots trying to figure out which bills I could pay,” Antonia said. “I didn’t know what we were going to do.
“And then they walked in, and everything felt OK.”
The team was scheduled to play the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday — first at NRG Stadium and then AT&T Stadium in Arlington — before the game was canceled Wednesday morning. Instead, the majority of the team spent the evening next door, surprising some families in need.
Some asked for players to sign stuffed animals and mini footballs. A young boy beat Akeem Hunt in a race. One pregnant woman asked players to sign the tank top in the area covering her stomach. “I’m wearing this shirt when I go to the hospital to have this baby,” she said with a smile.
And then there was the Dak Prescott Cowboys jersey. Players joked around, saying they didn’t know if they could sign. Right guard Jeff Allen eventually did, writing “GO TEXANS” across the back. Left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo shook his head before smiling and signing as well.
“I guess I’m going to do it,” Su’a-Filo said with a laugh.
Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing told reporters it was eye-opening to walk in and see the shelter. He said he hoped he and his teammates were able to make the people inside smile.
“Seeing how packed they are and how many people are there — and that’s where they’re staying for the night. And that’s it,” Cushing said. “It’s a tough situation. But we’re here, just trying to do whatever we can to help.”
Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was among the coaches in attendance, and he spent the evening talking to kids, leaning down to their level to talk.
“It’s going to take a while to get back, but this city is tough,” O’Brien said. “These people here are great. We’ve got great fans here. And they’re going to get back on their feet quickly.”
And when it was time to leave, the players slowly trickled out, waving goodbye and stopping to sign one more autograph.
As the players walked out, they passed a sign on the wall that read: “The comeback is always stronger than the setback. #HoustonStrong.”