Instinctive, feisty and a punishing hitter, NFL veteran free agent safety Tyrann Mathieu has an ultra-productive game that's worth emulating.
And Texans rookie safety Jalen Pitre, a second-round draft pick from Baylor and a Stafford graduate, models his game after Mathieu, a former All-Pro selection and Texans defensive captain, along with Arizona Cardinals standout safety Budda Baker.
"Tyrann Mathieu is definitely No. 1 on my list of players I try to model my game after," Pitre said Friday night after being selected 37th overall by his hometown team. "I try to take different things from his game to add to mine. His versatility, his knack for being around the ball, his instincts, they're all things I try to add to my game. I try to mix in some Budda Baker as well. You hit it on the head with the two players I try to model my game after.'
The 5-foot-11, 198-pounder is the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American.
The Texans like Pitre's aggressive, fired-up style of play.
"He plays with his hair on fire," Texans general manager Nick Caserio said. "Versatile player. They used him a little bit inside in the slot. He played safety, so he has some position versatility. I think he might have a role in the kicking game. Tough, instinctive football player, loves playing football. His energy was infectious when he was in the building.
"I would say Jalen falls in the category of embodying the types of people and players that we want to have in this building. Kind of their vigor and joy playing football. You see it in the way that he plays. He plays with his hair on fire."
Pitre has played free safety, strong safety and nickel.
"I plan on playing safety and nickel," Pitre said. "Wherever coach Lovie Smith feels comfortable having me. "I'm going to try to be a guy that can play a lot of different positions and do a lot of different things. I'm thankful that he (Caserio and Lovie Smith) believed in me."
Pitre led Baylor with 18 tackles for losses and had three sacks and finished with 76 total tackles, intercepting two passes, breaking up seven more and had three fumble recoveries.
He had 60 tackles as a junior and was an All-Big 12 selection with 60 tackles, 13 for losses, two interceptions, returning both for touchdowns and 2 1/2 sacks. He's a converted linebacker who started as a true freshman before redshirting the following season with a shoulder injury.
He lined up as a hybrid linebacker-safety in a position called the Star in a 4-2-5 defense under Dave Aranda after Matt Rhule was hired by the Carolina Panthers.
"Coach Rhule's defense gave me the backbone of my development early on," Pitre said. "He taught me the ins and out of offense and defense. With coach Aranda, he gave me the nuances of how to play with that knowledge. Both coaches were great and they played a big part in the development of my career."
The Texans had interest in Iowa State running back Breece Hall, but the New York Jets traded ahead of their No. 37 spot to select him 35th overall.
The Texans needed help at safety after Justin Reid signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent.
And quality reinforcements were geographically nearby. Pitre and his family live a short drive from NRG Stadium.
"I think we're starting the Houston Texans Community College by picking a lot of kids that kind of grew up here right around the corner," Caserio said. "We called Pitre and asked where he was. He was five minutes down the street. He probably would have sprinted to the stadium. What coach Aranda has done at Baylor, I would say it's because of players and people like Jalen Pitre. He meant as much as anybody to that program."
Being able to play in his hometown resonated strongly with Pitre.
“Being able to stay with the hometown team, it's a blessing," Pitre said. "Yesterday, I was pretty sad that I didn't get picked early. But God had a plan for me. I have a great coach in Lovie Smith now."
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and analyst and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.