Instinctive, hard-hitting and having an innate ability to find and react to the football, Texans safety Jalen Pitre emerged as one of the top rookies in the NFL last season.
Now, Pitre will be coached by a defensive mastermind with a stellar playing background. In hiring DeMeco Ryans and signing him to a six-year contract, the Texans added the former defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers’ top-ranked defense.
“It’s a blessing to get to work with a guy like coach Ryans,” Pitre said during the Tristar Productions autograph show. “I just want to bring my best to the table and help this team win. I’m looking forward to this season. It’s a blessing being able to play for somebody not only doing good in coaching, but has had a great career.
”It’s live, that’s the word I would use. You can tell the energy is real. It’s good to feel that back in Houston. I’m ready to go and I’m ready to get to work.”
Ryans coached an All-Pro at every level of the defense last season for the 49ers, including safety Talanoa Hufanga, middle linebacker Fred Warner and defensive end Nick Bosa. Hufanga intercepted four passes and had 97 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one defensive touchdown last season. Pitre had a team-high 147 tackles and five interceptions.
“I didn’t watch them much, but Hufanga is a great player and a guy I see a couple highlights from throughout the season,” Pitre said. “I thought he was a good player and it’s good he ended up being a Pro Bowl player and All-Pro as well. He’s a great player. That’s exciting to see a safety come from his defense and do so well.”
Pitre recorded the most tackles among all NFL rookies and became the first player to record more than 125 tackles and intercept five passes since the tackle statistic began being tracked in 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“Seeing Jalen Pitre, loved him coming out of Baylor,” Ryans said. “Loved the blitzing, loved just the play speed of Pitre. Just to see him come out this past year and five interceptions, the way he attacked the ball, man. Jalen, we got to continue to do that. We’ve got to continue to take the ball away.”
Ryans is a former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and second-round draft pick, like Pitre, of the Texans. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
“It’s a blessing,” Pitre said. “He understands what it takes to be a high-level player in this league and he wants to teach us as much as he knows. I’m ready to learn as much as I can from him and continue to evolve my game and get better.
“He knows what it takes to be the best and he knows what he wants out of his players. I’m looking forward to learning from him and I think it’s going to be a lot of growing steps with him There’s a lot I can learn from him.”
Pitre is determined to improve after dealing with missed tackles as a rookie as the Texans finished 3-13-1 under Lovie Smith.
“I’ve seen a lot of good things and bad things I can grow from. I’m eager to continue to learn from my coaches and continue to build this team and get it moving in the right direction.”
Being selected by Tristar to do an appearance was significant for Pierce, a Stafford High School graduate.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s a blessing because I grew up here wanting to do stuff like this and meet Texnas players. It’s a surreal moment for me being in this position and being in position to do this.
“This is big-time. Tristar is great. They’re obviously well-prepared and they know what they’re doing. I’m blessed they asked me to be out here today.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.