Shutdown Corner - NFL

I had the opportunity to talk to Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub(notes) yesterday. We discussed the beast that is Andre Johnson(notes), Steve Slaton(notes), how far the Texans can go in '09, learning from Michael Vick(notes), and whether or not Vick ever invited him over to see a dogfight.

Of course, we also have the standard line of personal/get-to-know-you questions that have become standard in Shutdown Corner interviews. Here's our conversation.

MJD: Let me ask you first about Andre Johnson.

Matt Schaub: Yeah.

MJD: What are the first three words that come to mind when I say his name?

Matt Schaub: First three words that come to mind. Well, hard-working. Quiet. And explosive.

MJD: Is he the best receiver in the league?

Matt Schaub: Without a doubt. I think he's the best, working with him for going on three years now and knowing him personally, you couldn't ask for a better combination of skills and work ethic. He just comes to work every day, trying to get better to help our team win. He had a great attitude, and that's all aside from his athletic skills and what he brings to the football field as a receiver.

MJD: Do you think you two have the ability to become one of the legendary QB/WR combinations, like Montana/Rice, or someone like that?

Matt Schaub: Well, we have a long way to go to get to that point, but I feel like we can if we just keep working hard and keep getting better, and just stay on the field together. Those things can take care of themselves. But you know, we're a long way from reaching that level, but I definitely think he has the skills necessary to become one of the greatest receivers to ever play.

MJD: Cool. What about the first three words that come to mind when I say "Steve Slaton"?

Matt Schaub: Fast. Quick. And elusive. They might all kind of mirror each other, but he's one of those guys that stepped in as a rookie last year and really played big for us, and stayed healthy and was able to get through the grind of a 16-week season as a running back, and a smaller running back at that. He really excelled for us. One thing that's a challenge for him is to get better this year, and I feel like, this offseason, he was able to do that and in training camp, and he's definitely poised to have an even bigger year as a second-year player.

MJD: Yeah, so what are your expectations for the Texans' offense, because it seems like the pieces are in place to be one of the better offenses in the league, and be really pretty explosive.

Matt Schaub: Well, my expectations are for us to play consistent football. There were times last year when we played well, and there were times when we stumbled a little bit; we didn't play to our capabilities. And so my thing is is to go out and take care of the football, be a more efficient offense, especially in the red zone, and that's where our focus is. The good thing is that all eleven of our starters are back, and at full strength, so we need to just keep improving every day, and the rest will be history, as they say, I guess.

MJD: How do you feel about when the Texans wear the head-to-toe red uniforms? You like those?

Matt Schaub: Haha. I think it's sharp. I think it's a good look for us when we put the battle red on. Some guys look better in it than others, obviously, but I like the red-on-red. I think it looks sharp.

MJD: Off-the-field, do you ever feel like getting decked out in red, head-to-toe?

Matt Schaub: That's a hard feeling to really muster up. No, I don't feel like putting head-to-toe red on; I think that would kind of be a little much. On the field, I think it's okay, because we all look the same, but I think on the street, it would kind of look a little weird.

MJD: Now, you backed up Michael Vick in Atlanta for three years, of course. Did you know him well, and what were your impressions of him as a player and a person?

Matt Schaub: We got along really well. I learned a tremendous amount from Mike in the three years that we worked together. You know, from just being on the field as a quarterback, from handling the day-to-day duties as a quarterback, getting myself mentally prepared for how I would handle things, or how I would do things when I got my opportunity. I just sat back and learned a lot from him; just watching and observing him. He's a great guy, and he did a lot of great things as quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, and it was an unfortunate circumstance, what happened to him. I'm definitely excited for him to get another chance to play. I think it's a good situation for him, and I wish him all the best. I'm looking forward to seeing him grow into his new role and become a better player and a better person.

MJD: He didn't ever invite you to a dogfight, did he?

Matt Schaub: No.

MJD: What do you remember about the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl, when you guys (Virginia) played West Virginia?

Matt Schaub: What do I remember about it? I remember it being a great game, and our team played well offensively and defensively, and we put up a bunch of points and won the game pretty convincingly.

MJD: You don't happen to remember my voice in the stands screaming profanities at you, do you?

Matt Schaub: No, you know, it was hard to pick your voice out. There were a bunch of West Virginia fans at that game who were yelling at me, but that's what happens sometimes, I guess.

MJD: Well, I did, and I'm sorry for that.

Matt Schaub: No problem. Apology accepted.

MJD: No, that was a really impressive team with Heath Miller(notes) and Wali Lundy(notes) and Marques Hagans(notes). I didn't realize at the time how talented that team was, but yeah, they steamrolled West Virginia (48-22) pretty well.

Matt Schaub: Hahaha.

MJD: Now, you were a backup in Atlanta for three years, like we said, but obviously, you had the ability to start. Do you think there are a lot of guys out there around the league in the same position, where they're maybe holding a clipboard now, but could be very good starters in the league, if they got the chance?

Matt Schaub: Without a doubt. The NFL is a league of opportunity, and you hear a lot of players say it, a lot of coaches talk about it, but it's all about getting an opportunity, and when you get it, taking advantage of it. There are great players across this league, and there are probably great players who probably aren't even on a team right now, but it's all about getting an opportunity, and then it's our job as players to take advantage of it. I definitely think there are players out there, quarterbacks included, who may not be starters right now, but at some point, they're going to get an opportunity, and it's all about being ready when called upon.

MJD: Anyone in particular come to mind, when you think about backup quarterbacks who could play right now?

Matt Schaub: There's a bunch of quarterback battles out there right now, and when you hear things like that, on certain teams, that means there's probably two guys who are capable of doing it, it's just a matter of who goes out and shows it in the preseason games, or when they're asked to go out there on gameday. So I think any one of those are capable, and it's just a matter of going out and playing well.

MJD: Did you feel bad for Sage at all, with the way things went down in Minnesota, where he obviously won't get a chance to start now?

Matt Schaub: Well, I definitely sympathize with his situation, going up there knowing he has the opportunity to be the guy, and all the circus and the hoopla that's gone on in the offseason and here in training camp, and the thing I know about him is that he's going to handle it the right way and he's going to be prepared when they call on him. That's the most that he can do. It's kind of out of his hands, and he just needs to be ready, and I know he will be.

MJD: Cool. You wanna tell us what you're doing with Gatorade today?

Matt Schaub: Yeah, I'm matched up with Gatorade and the NFL for the "Beat the Heat" program, and what we're trying to do is raise awareness around the country to educate parents and youth coaches, high school coaches, and athletes as well, about proper hydration and heat safety. Going through the month of August here, players and teams across the country are going through two-a-days where it's extremely hot and humid, and you're out there for four or five hours a day, and you're losing a lot of water weight, you're sweating, and what we need to do is raise awareness about hydration and replenishing those fluids and those electrolytes with sports drinks such as Gatorade, to replace those things that help you play at a very high level for an extended period of time. Water is a great source, but it doesn't have those electrolytes like Gatorade has, to give you that energy for that second practice of the day. After a while, you'll get worn down and you need those things in your body to help propel you through those grueling two-a-days that those coaches put you through. It's all the same for us down here in Houston. It's been 100, 105 degrees every day for, gosh, it seems like every day since I've been here in three years. We're asking people to go onto the website at www.nfl.com/trainingcamp where they can download the Heat Safety Kit, which has a lot of information about heat-related illnesses, which in turn, will prevent possible deaths that have been happening. You look at the numbers, and they blow your mind, how many kinds and players are passing away because of these problems. With each download of the Heat Safety Kit, money will be raised for the program, which will then benefit two foundations; one is the Stringer Foundation, the other is the Kendrick Fincher Memorial Foundation.

MJD: Cool, sounds good. Switching to some off-the-field questions, if you could have dinner with any three people in history, dead or alive, who would they be?

Matt Schaub: Oh my goodness, you really turned a 180 on me there. You're asking some tough questions here. I would say George Washington. I would say ... um ... who else? Probably one of my old ancestors, like a great, great grandparent. And I would say ... Jesus.

MJD: (pause) Oh, I thought that was a pause, you were still trying to think of something. But no, you actually meant Jesus.

Matt Schaub: Yeah.

MJD: Gotcha. Why George Washington?

Matt Schaub: He was one of the founding fathers of our country, a tremendous leader in the army, and our first President. All I've learned about him and read about him, his leadership qualities, and all he had to go through to help start a country. I could only imagine some of the wisdom and things that he stood for, and he probably has a lot of good things.

MJD: What's the last movie you saw?

Matt Schaub: The very last movie was G.I. Joe in the theatre, the day it come out two weeks ago.

MJD: Oh, how was it?

Matt Schaub: It was entertaining. I enjoyed it. Kind of long, but very entertaining.

MJD: Good. What's on your iPod right now?

Matt Schaub: I've got a whole mix of things. I've got a couple different playlists. Right now, I have my country list playing, just to keep me relaxed and enjoying training camp here, you know, to keep my mind at ease.

MJD: What's one hobby you have or one thing you enjoy doing that people might be surprised to hear that a football player does?

Matt Schaub: There's not much that people wouldn't imagine I would do. Hm. I love to play golf, I love to watch movies. Those are probably my two biggest hobbies, but I don't think that would surprise anybody.

MJD: Right on. Say your house catches on fire, and all your loved ones and all your pets are safe. You've got the opportunity to go in and grab one thing. What would it be?

Matt Schaub: Okay, so you're saying the family, the pets, everybody's safe?

MJD: Right.

Matt Schaub: Okay. I go in, I grab our ... hm. I go in and I grab the file cabinet. Our safe/file cabinet. Pull that out of there.

MJD: That's a pretty good answer. Pretty boring answer, but pretty solid, if you think about it.

Matt Schaub: I'm a pretty boring person, I guess.

MJD: If you could wake up tomorrow with one superhero power, what would --

Matt Schaub: Fly.

MJD: To fly?

Matt Schaub: I'd want to fly. Easily. Yep.

MJD: What would be the first thing you could do if you could fly?

Matt Schaub: First thing I would do, I would just ... shoot, I'd just get up there and start flying, soaring above everything, getting a good aerial view of the world.

MJD: Alright. That's all I have for you, I really appreciate it. Thanks man.

Matt Schaub: Alright, have a good one.

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