An emergency situation became a thrilling experience for Texans veteran safety Justin Reid.
Months of lobbying and practicing his kicks, a return to his high school roots in Louisiana as a soccer player and kicker for his football team, paid off Saturday night when Reid was forced into action as a kicker when regular kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn suffered a minor leg injury and was held out as a precautionary measure.
Reid filed in capably on kickoffs against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, booting one 61 yards before sprinting downfield to help force a fumble on a tackle of Tampa Bay Buccaneers returner Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Reid's opening kickoff reached the end zone and was returned to the Buccaneers' 16-yard line.
Reid didn't get to kick an extra point or a field goal, but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm.
“I had the time of my life,” Reid said. “I've been looking forward to this moment for so long, I can't tell you how excited I was when the coaches said, ‘You're up this game.’ I was like, ‘Really, I get one?’ They said, ‘No, you're up the whole game.’ I was so excited to be out there. It was a dream come true.”
Growing up in Louisiana, Reid loved to play soccer and was also his high school football team’s kicker.
For months, Reid has been in Texans coach David Culley and special teams coordinator Frank Ross’ ears asking for a shot as a kicker.
In practice, Reid has routinely made several field goals.
“Ever since I've been here, even back during OTAs, he talked about wanting to kick,” Culley said. “I don't know what it is, if it's something from Stanford or whatever it was, but he has this thing about wanting to kick.
"Had we got in a situation later in the ballgame, if we got to the plus 24-yard line, he was going to kick a field goal. That was his distance. He was going to kick a field goal, and he was excited about that. Unfortunately, we didn't get down there when we needed to get down there late in the game.”
Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor was impressed with how Reid handled his double duty.
“I was actually surprised,” Taylor said. “I know it's crazy. We had this talk walking to practice, might have been two weeks ago, he was telling me how he played soccer growing up. To know that background, that was dope to see him go out there and do that. He did a great job.”
Reid was primed for the field goal that never materialized.
“Man, that would have been incredible,” Reid said. “I was ready the whole game. I don't know if you catch me on the sideline. I had my helmet strapped every time every time we were down there to see if I would get to go out there. Maybe next preseason.”
Although he didn’t get his opportunity, it was no less satisfying for Reid to get to experience kicking a football in an actual NFL game.
Reid credits soccer for helping him to develop a strong leg, but he gravitated toward football and followed the footsteps of his older brother, former Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid, to the NFL.
“We’ve got a much better kicker in Ka’imi Fairbairn, but it was a fun experience for me to go out and do it,” Reid said. “I was a kicker in high school, I was an emergency kicker in college, never got to trot out on the field and do it. I've been that emergency kicker here, just never needed me yet.
“I made some plays at safety, but as much as I've been excited to actually kick the ball, this is going to go down as one of my favorite moments, absolutely, man, to actually go out there and do it. I was so excited. I wasn't nervous at all. I was so excited. I've been looking forward to this for a long time.”
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.