Hunched over the line of scrimmage, Jon Weeks carefully sets the laces on the football and squeezes it tight for the exact grip he needs before firing it between his legs back to kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn.
Fairbairn smoothly hits the field goal, splitting the uprights as Weeks blocks. Another daily mission accomplished for Weeks, whose perfection and longevity are unmatched in Texans franchise history.
The former Pro Bowl long snapper is the longest actively tenured player in franchise history. Weeks, 35, is a 2016 Pro Bowl selection who owns the franchise record with 176 consecutive games,retired Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson for the most games in franchise history last November.
Known for his accuracy and velocity, Weeks' proficiency leaves teammates marveling over his skills and prodigious work ethic.
“He's second to none, for sure,” Fairbairn said .”It doesn't go unnoticed on my part. Snapping and holding can be one of the most thankless jobs in the NFL. He treats his job as serious as the next guy. So, I appreciate him a lot and happy to have him.”
A former walk-on at Baylor who earned a scholarship, Weeks went undrafted and tried out for the Detroit Lions. Out of football in 2008 and 2009, he joined the Texans in 2010 and has become a fixture.
Weeks signed a one-year, $1.212 million contract this offseason that included a $1.075 million salary, a $137,500 signing bonus and $250,000 total guaranteed.
“It means a lot,” Weeks said. “I think any snapper when they get into the league, they want to say they are consistent enough to keep going for a long time. And the fact that the coaching staff and my teammates trust me to go out there and do my job effectively, is incredibly important to me.”
“I was sitting in front of someone and they said they had a 2000 birthday and then I realized how old I was, which I thought was insane. Again, I'm happy to be here. I'm incredibly happy to be part of this team. I love the way everything's going right now. I'm just fortunate to be out there and doing my job.”
Heading into his 12thseason, Weeks’ steady presence hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He's incredible, I've never seen anything like it,” new Texans punter Cameron Johnston said. “That guy is an incredible snapper. Being able to work with him, it's impressive seeing what he does and his attention to detail every day. You can see why he's been in the league so long and he's still one of the top three in the NFL doing it.”
For Weeks, it’s all about the details of his craft. He’s able to do his job so well because of the amount of time he puts into being the best.
“Accuracy of Jon Weeks? It’s been good,” Texans special teams coordinator Frank Ross said. “Jon has proven himself.”
Weeks is energized by Texans general manager Nick Caserio’s heavy emphasis on special teams. That includes signing Johnston, Pro Bowl kick returner Andre Roberts and special-teams standouts like Tavierre Thomas, Tremon Smith and Chris Moore.
“Our returners are explosive,” Weeks said. “We’ve got a bunch of really good, savvy vets that block their tails off for those guys and know how dangerous they are when they get the ball in their hands. So, I think the return game is going to be pretty special for us this year.”
Weeks is a bit superstitious. He didn't like when he was reminded that he's never had a truly botched or bad snap.
“I’m 100 percent superstitious about that stuff and I don’t appreciate you talking about it all, to be honest,” Weeks said. “But it’s fantastic and my job is to make their job as easy as possible and for them to be comfortable. If they light up when they talk about my snaps, then I’m doing my job at a high level and I’m going to keep doing my job to get better but if they are happy, then I am happy.”
Because Johnston is much shorter at 5-foot-11, 194 pounds than former Texans punter Bryan Anger (6-3, 202 pounds), Weeks has had to adjust the height of his snaps.
“Cam, a great punter, strong leg, has all the kicks, might be the shortest punter I've ever snapped to,” Weeks said. “Most of my guys have been kind of big. My adjustment, if I'm being 100 percent honest, was just learning to change the release point a little bit. But it's been a seamless transition. Cam is fantastic to work with. He's a great holder. I think Ka'imi is going to have a fantastic year with him as his holder. I'm looking forward to the season Cam is going to have for us.
“It's a feel thing, if I'm going to be honest with you. It's just a release point, just a matter of inches, to be honest. Something that I'm fortunate enough that I've got a guy that likes to punt, so we've got a lot of work together in the offseason. So, it was able to come together pretty quickly.”
In his preparations for this season and to be as quick as he could get to cover punts, Weeks got as lean as possible through a diet designed by Texans nutritionist and director of team wellness Ladd Harris, workouts with strength and conditioning coach Mike Eubanks and offseason training with Billy Voltaire of Volt PT at Kinitro Fitness.
“Obviously, when you get up in age, one of my focuses this off-season was just to come in in good shape, and I was able to do that with the help of Ladd Harris for the Texans organization, a great nutritionist that we have here, and working with him on the side. We were able to get myself down, and I feel great. So, I'm happy.”
Weeks is encouraged by the direction of the franchise. The roster has undergone a lot of change with 53 new players following a 4-12 season.
“It's different every year,” Weeks said. “Obviously, with the turnover this year and the job that Nick and his staff is done with the roster. It's been great, though. A lot of new faces, but a lot of guys that have the same kind of drive. All the goals are the same. Everything is we're all about team first. We're all about making each other better, doing what's best for the team and each other. That's why the practices out here, they're hard, but everyone is getting better with it. We all enjoy each other's company.
“Everything is great right now. Everything has got to keep going in the right direction. We have a great group of veteran players, young players, guys that are hungry, they work their tails off. When you have that and you have a group of guys striving for the same goal, you're going to push each other, and it's going to work out for the best. I'm excited to see what happens.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.