Lovie Smith reflected on the significance of the Texans' two-year partnership with Texas Southern University that was launched Wednesday night.
Honored at a reception at the Historically Black College and University, the Texans' head coach clapped as Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair and Hannah McNair, McNair's wife and the vice president of the Texans' charitable foundation, announced that the team is donating its artificial playing surface from NRG Stadium to TSU, making a commitment to award $5,000 scholarships to five female student-athletes annually, supporting football field house upgrades to boost recruiting efforts and creating career opportunities, internships and mentoring for students, faculty, staff and athletic department leaders.
"We should be working together and doing a lot of different things," said Smith, who praised the McNair family's commitment. "I'm excited. It's special. It will have a big impact. It's important to our organization."
Because of the partnership, TSU will have resources able to help the school be more competitive in athletics and have increased opportunities career advancement.
"TSU is a pillar in our community and a desired destination for top student-athletes and we strive to make an impact by creating and supporting programs like this," Cal McNair said. "We are excited to be here announcing a special partnership to inspire the next generation of our Houston leaders."
Added Hannah McNair: "This is really special to us. We are very excited."
Dr. Lesia L. Crumpton-Young, the president of the university, said that the Texans' commitment will make a significant difference.
"We have talented and students, the best and the brightest, but they do need financial help to remain in school," Crumpton-Young said. "We want to thank you for the scholarships. We talk about innovations, transformative and disruptive. When they announced their scholarships were focused on female athletes, that was innovative, transformative and disruptive."
The event was attended by team president Greg Grissom, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and offensive assistant-quarterbacks coach Ted White, two former Howard University quarterbacks, along with linebackers coach Miles Smith, Lovie Smith's son, corners coach Dino Vasso, safeties coach Joe Danna, special teams coordinator Frank Ross and several other assistant coaches, offensive tackle Tytus Howard, linebacker Christian Kirksey, defensive end Jon Greenard and defensive tackle Ross Blacklock. Retired former Texans players Andre Johnson, Chester Pitts, Wade Smith and Jonathan Wells were at the event, too, along with Texas Southern coaches and football players.
A former first-round draft pick from Alabama State, an HBCU, Howard said the partnership is "amazing."
"It means a lot," Howard said. "I'm glad I got an opportunity to witness this. Me going to an HBCU, I never got a chance to see something like this. l'm glad to be a part of this organization."
Smith was promoted to head coach after the Texans fired coach David Culley following a 4-13 season.
A former NFL Coach of the Year who coached in a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears, Smith said he's eager to turn things around. The Texans started the voluntary portion of their offseason conditioning program Monday.
"There's just so much excitement," Smith said. "We're hard at work."
Howard said that Smith's leadership and positive personality have resonated with him and other players in the Texans' locker room.
"It's great," Howard said. "At the end of the day, you see what kind of person he is. Everybody likes him. I have nothing but good experiences with him and good talks. I'm happy for him to be our head coach. I think he's going to lead us in the right way to win some football games."