Texans, Garret Wallow encouraged by his progress

Operating on instinct, Texans linebacker Garret Wallow is accustomed to finding the football fast.

That’s how he piled up tackles as an All-Big-12 selection at TCU. Now, the New Orleans native is coming off his most extensive defensive action as he had two tackles on 18 defensive snaps during a 31-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Texans were encouraged by what they saw from Wallow, and that role should continue on defense over the final five games starting with Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

“We’ve seen marked improvement from Garret,” Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith said. Smart, good football knowledge, but like most young players, needed experience. He’s gotten a lot of that. He’s a student of the game, and now it’s just about daily improvement. 

“We’ll continue to talk to him about, as a young player, developing your body. We’ll continue to talk to him about that. We like some of the things he’s done for a period of time. What a great opportunity for some of those guys to get more reps.”

Wallow was pressed into an expanded role Sunday, change prompted by former linebacker Zach Cunningham being inactive for disciplinary reasons before being placed on waivers Wednesday.

The athletic fifth-round draft pick capitalized on the opportunity as he played 25 percent of the defensive playing time. Wallow didn't look out of place in the base defense. 

Wallow learned shortly before kickoff that he would be playing more on defense from coach David Culley.

“It’s crazy,” Wallow said. “Right when we were doing a couple team things and coach told me, ‘Hey, if anybody gets tired, you have my word to go in.’ I was excited, I was like ‘cool’, but it’s kind of just that next man up mentality, something that just comes with preparation. 

“You never know when your number is going to be called and you never know when your name is going to be called, so just always being ready and always being aware and alert.”

Signed to a four-year, $3.775 million rookie contract that includes a $295,884 signing bonus, Wallow had 287 career tackles, 32 ½ for losses and 9 ½ sacks in college. Wallow ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds at the Horned Frogs’ campus Pro Day workout where he bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times and had a 32 ½ inch vertical leap, a 10-2 broad jump, a 4.12 short shuttle and a 6.87 three-cone drill.

Wallow had 90 tackles last season, including nine for losses and three sacks, five quarterback hits and three forced fumbles.

He has primarily played on special teams as a rookie.

“Definitely starting off with special teams earlier on in the season, it’s been a good experience for growth,” Wallow said. “I definitely came a long way since the first day I stepped foot in this facility. It was funny because me and (assistant special teams coach Sean Baker) were just talking about the first day in rookie minicamp and how far I came already. 

“There’s definitely a standard more now that I see for myself with this team, with the vets in the room, seeing how they carry themselves. Kind of like the standard how I know I need to carry myself, too. Kind of just learning every day and growing every day and becoming better and better. That being said, it’s fine for where I’m at, but just keep growing and just keep elevating.”

With an opportunity in front of him, Wallow is determined to capitalize on this chance.

“I think all of us really had that same approach, just keep putting our best foot forward, doing what we can to help the team out in any way possible, and that’s kind of been my mentality the whole year,” Wallow said. “Just plan on keeping that mentality for the rest of the season. Really, just coming in every day, preparing as hard as I can mentally and physically and just being able to put my best foot forward. Having guys like Christian (Kirksey) and Kamu (Grugier-Hill), and some older vets in the room helps with that, brings a lot of confidence mentally, too, playing next to them. I’ve just got to take full advantage of it and put my best foot forward.”

Wallow is also concentrating on getting stronger and doing everything he can to be as physically ready as possible.

“Just things you want to do nutrition-wise, lifting, more physical-wise, body-wise, just trying to grow strength-wise: Strengthen your legs, upper body and anything you can to be more physical at this level,” he said. “That’s just with anybody, I think, coming in. We all have to develop our bodies. Most people say players develop their bodies more so from year one to year two, and that’s real. You need to develop your body to last long in this league. Your body needs strength to last all the games in this league.”

“I would say when I came in, I was a lot lighter than I think I should’ve been. Really, (strength and conditioning) coach Mike Eubanks does a great job with me and his strength staff. We go to work every day, work hard, and he’s really helped me grow physically in the weight room. I have Ladd (Harris) and Jacob (Mertens) and the nutritionists to just help me and make sure that my diet’s on point, and that I’m eating right and putting the correct nutrients, carbs, protein, everything in my body to make sure I have energy out there and make sure I’m at my best.”

Although the Texans are off to a 2-10 start, Wallow remains convinced that he’s a part of something good that’s going to become a lasting foundation.

“My impression’s the same that it was the first day that I was glad to be here,” Wallow said. “I knew we had something special here and I still believe we have something special here. We have a bunch of guys who are locked in, a bunch of guys who no matter what, come to work every day and put their best foot forward.

“Honestly, it makes coming to work a blessing because you have guys who’ve been in the game for a long time who still bring that same energy to practice, that same enthusiasm to practice each and every day. After being in the league for many years, I have guys like that to look up to. I have guys like that to grow from, so my impression has still been the same. I think very highly of this organization and I believe in this organization as much as anybody else in the building does.”

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