Instinctively finding the football with a combination of practiced aggressiveness and skill, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill kept piling up tackle after tackle after tackle.
The former New England Patriots sixth-round draft pick was one of the few bright spots Sunday during a 31-0 defeat to the Indianapolis Colts.
Grugier-Hill set a franchise single-same record with 19 tackles to go along with one sack and three tackles for losses.
Grugier-Hill’s 13 tackles in the first half tied Jamie Sharper for the most tackles in a half in franchise history, and he joined Derwin James as the only NFL players to have 13 or more tackles in a single half this season.
“It's an honor, I can't lie,” Grugier-Hill said. “My whole career I've been pigeonholed as a good special teamer, come in on core downs. And to have this accomplishment, like in this franchise, a place I want to be, just prove to everyone that I can be a real starter, real player in this league, a legit player.
It's definitely an honor. I mean, we still – we didn't win so it doesn't mean much, but you can't celebrate too many individual victories when we have a record like this, which sucks. But it's an honor.”
The Texans still allowed 238 rushing yards, 143 gained by star running back Jonathan Taylor, the NFL’s leading rusher. Taylor scored a pair of touchdowns, including one on a Wildcat direct snap. The Colts averaged 5.0 yards per carry on 48 runs. They only threw the football 22 times, but quarterback Carson Wentz completed 16 of them for 148 yards and one touchdown.
“I think we're just trying to figure it out,” Grugier-Hill said. “We're trying to figure everything out in every phase. I can only speak for the defense. We don't have it figured out. We're giving up 31 points. We're doing all that stuff. We're slowly trying to figure it out and just keep pushing, trying to get better every week. Even with our record we're just trying to look at how can we get better every single week.”
Grugier-Hill had 10 solo tackles for the Texans, who fell to 2-10 this year.
Grugier-Hill is the first NFL player since the 1999 season to finish with 19 tackles, three for losses and a sack. He’s up to three sacks this season.
“He was on every tackle,” Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “Kamu has done, like, really well this year for us. I love the way he played. Just the energy that he brings to the team and to go out there and see him do that, it's no surprise to me. He was flying around. He's a great player. I'm happy to see him actually achieve that and get the franchise record.”
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 keeps demonstrating how productive he can be when given extended playing time.
Grugier-Hill built a reputation for speed, versatility and toughness during his first five NFL seasons.
A former Eastern Illinois standout 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 149 career tackles, 17 tackles for losses, three forced fumbles and three sacks.
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.
Now, Grugier-Hill is hoping to extend his time with the Texans with a new contract. The Texans are open to the idea of bringing back Grugier-Hill, according to league sources.
“I love it here, I really do,” Grugier-Hill said. “It's been a frustrating year for sure, but I can see the bones that they're trying to instill and have here and the culture here. It may not look like it right now, but I think this could be a place that I want to be. And I want to help build the culture. I want to grow and be part of it.”
“You can see the bones, you can see the guys we have. There's great guys. I said this last week. We have a record at, what, 2-10 now, and you would think that the locker room would be toxic and everyone is pointing fingers at everyone. But it's really not that. We're just trying to figure it out. We have great guys in the locker room. Everyone comes to work every day, does their thing and we're just trying to figure it out.”