When the Houston Texans travel to meet the New England Patriots this weekend, they'll look a bit like something right out of "Friday Night Lights." That's because every Texans player will be wearing custom-made letterman jackets, with the Texans' logo, each player's number, and each player's position.
Defensive tackle Shaun Cody came up with the idea, and told his good friend, linebacker Connor Barwin. They brought Jay Brunetti, the team's director of equipment services, on board, and the Houston Texans letterman jacket was born. Brunetti put them in touch with a local company called Bull Shirts, who were able to get the jackets done on short notice.
We've got spirit, how 'bout you? Connor Barwin and Antonio Smith model their new swag. (HoustonTexans.com)
All Texans players will wear the jackets on their trip to Foxboro, Mass., as the Texans face the Patriots on Monday Night Football. The 11-1 Texans may the the best team in the AFC (and perhaps in the NFL), but they're still looking for any motivational edge they can get as they prepare to deal with the 9-3 Pats on national television.
The idea, according to Barwin, was to recall the high school days most every Texans player can fondly remember.
"We have a dress code," Barwin said. "Everybody's going to wear them on the plane, on the trip to New England, on the bus. [I'm] pushing for khaki pants, white shirt, blue tie, jacket, so it looks like we're about to get on a yellow bus with shoulder pads in our hands."
There were no objections. Every player on the team got their own custom jacket with his jersey number and position. Even cornerback Stanforf Routt, acquired off the waiver wire this week, has put in an emergency order so that he can fit in.
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"We've got a great group of guys," Barwin said. "Anything that represents the camaraderie of this team, guys are excited about, and that's exactly what the jacket does."
Arian Foster agreed. "I never had a letterman's jacket in high school," the star running back told our friends at CSN Houston. "I had one in college, but it didn't fit, so I never wore it. So, this will be my first official letterman's jacket."
According to the team's official site, this isn't just a one-time thing.
The jackets are predominantly Deep Steel Blue with the Texans' logo over the left breast. On the right sleeve just above the elbow is each player's number stacked on top of his position group — LB, DL, DB, WR, etc. — in white lettering with red outline. Barwin said the jackets will soon have patches on the left arm to commemorate the Texans' 2011 AFC South title for players who were on the team last season. Captains also will get patches on the left sleeve.
The Texans will add more patches for any future division titles and conference and Super Bowl championships. The idea is to "kind of build a tradition the longer you're here, the more patches you get on your jacket," Barwin said.
Of course, the merchandising possibilities are endless -- both official and bootleg apparel manufacturers will no doubt jump on the idea of NFL letterman swag, and the Cody/Barwin design team probably won't even get a cut.
"The fans can go create their own jacket, but this is obviously something that you only get if you're on the team," Barwin said. "You can't go buy this jacket at Academy Sports. We want it to be just for us guys, but obviously, we can't stop people from making their own."
But that's not what this is about to the players. It's about creating a feeling of camaraderie in a time of great pressure. In 2011, the Texans were the NFL's best team for a good long while, but a season-ending foot injury to quarterback Matt Schaub last November put the Texans' Super Bowl aspirations on ice. Now, much more is expected, and guys need to blow off steam somehow.
This seems like a pretty good way to go.
"I used to say before the season it feels like we're on a college team," Barwin concluded. "Everybody gets along. We have so much fun. And this jacket, you feel like you're on a high school team where it's all about winning, it's all about being around a group of guys. This jacket is just another symbol of that."
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