Texans’ Kamu Grugier-Hill caps strong preseason

Kamu Grugier-Hill reacted instinctively, reading the running play adeptly and aggressively bolted across the line of scrimmage.

The Texans’ linebacker tackled Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ronald Jones for a loss while starting in place of Zach Cunningham, the NFL’s leading tackler who missed the game for personal reasons.

Signed to a one-year contract with a maximum value of $3.25 million that included a $1 million signing bonus by Texans general manager Nick Caserio, Grugier-Hill demonstrated how productive he can be when given extended playing time. He finished with five tackles during a 23-16 preseason loss to the defending Super Bowl champions at NRG Stadium.

“I was so happy to see Kamu go out there and play very well,” Texans veteran linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “He's been working his butt off this whole time in training camp, even the off-season, just doing workouts with him. He's the type of guy that, you know, what happened, he definitely deserves it. He puts the work in. He don't complain about anything and just gets better and better. I was just, so happy and proud of him, and glad that he enjoyed that moment.”

Grugier-Hill built a reputation for speed, versatility and toughness during his first five NFL seasons.

A former Patriots sixth-round draft pick from Eastern Illinois where he was teammates with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Grugier-Hill has run the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds with a 38 ½ inch vertical leap and a 10-9 broad jump.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Hawaii native recorded one sack and 21 tackles last season for Miami, playing under a one-year contract for Dolphins coach Brian Flores, his linebackers coach in New England. He has recorded 126 career tackles, 12 tackles for losses two forced fumbles and two sacks.

Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith emphasizes mobility at the linebacker position, which makes Grugier-Hill a strong fit for his 4-3 defense, especially its substitute packages.

“He's been like that since he got here really,” Smith said this month. “Came from a similar system, we thought that he would fit in well. He's been a great special teams player, of course, throughout his career, but football-wise. To see him make plays like that is pretty special, and I know he'll keep doing it.”

Grugier-Hill didn’t stick with the Patriots as a rookie as he was cut during the final major roster cutdown. Acquired off waivers by the Philadelphia Eagles, he intercepted his first NFL pass off New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He earned a Super Bowl ring in a victory over the Patriots. During his final season at Eastern Illinois, Grugier-Hill showcased his instincts with 16 ½ tackles for losses and 6 ½ sacks.

Grugier-Hill has 37 career special-teams tackles with one forced fumble.

Grugier-Hill instructed his agent, Steve Caric, to try to arrange for him to play for an NFL team in Texas. That wish worked out this offseason.

 “I love it out here, man,” Grugier-Hill said. “It’s funny because I told my agent when I was a young player, I was like, ‘if I ever get a chance to play for a Texas team, I’ll take it.’ I don’t know. It’s just the hospitality around here and just the love that I feel from the people, it’s definitely very similar to back home. I’m loving it back here.”

Grugier-Hill joined a team coming off a 4-12 season that has instituted a lot of change with dozens of new players and hiring Caserio and coach David Culley.

“I’m very happy with how things are being ran here and the way things are going,” Grugier-Hill said. “ I know that last year, whatever, there was a different perception of that, but coming in this year, I think I speak for a lot of guys saying that we love the culture and we love the leadership and the way things are being ran here.”

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.

Houston Texans v Green Bay Packers

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