It didn’t take long for C.J. Stroud to establish himself as a leader in the Houston Texans locker room. Even though he was only a rookie, Stroud made it a point to prove to his teammates that he planned to take on the responsibilities that came with the mantle of franchise quarterback.
Stroud told “the Pivot Podcast” this week that he came into the 2023 offseason with the idea that he would establish himself as the leader quickly. That included team-boding activities like bowling, dinners and workouts so that he could get to know his teammates on a more personal level ahead of the 2023 season.
“I came in with a mindset that ‘Yeah, I want to be a leader on the team, I want to be a captain, I want to do all this leadership stuff – but I want to earn it,’” Stroud said. “Honestly, my first step was to build trust. How can I build trust with my guys? How can I spend more time with them and let them know this isn’t for fake, I’m not just trying to be a leader, I really want to be brothers, because the closest teams I’ve been on have been the best teams.”
CJ Stroud was the unquestioned leader of the @HoustonTexans & it was something he knew he had to earn. He started right away with offseason team building activities, & even off site workouts to focus on the little things that win games. Most of all he wanted to build trust and a… pic.twitter.com/aIeb4IVHOb
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) February 7, 2024
“We did a whole bunch of cool stuff,” Stroud added. “We all had a lot in common hat we didn’t know. We all come from different demographics. Like (tight end) Dalton Schultz being from Utah, he’s different than (receiver) Nico Collins being from Birmingham, Alabama. That time let us know we’re going to figure this stuff out.”
That team chemistry became obvious over the course of Stroud’s rookie season. The Texans rebounded after an 0-2 start to the year with back-to-back 30-point outings and went 6-4 over the first 10 games of the year. Stroud himself looked like an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate with his teammates putting together career seasons.
Everything came together at the end of the season once Stroud returned from his two-game concussion absence. The Texans won their final two games of the regular season to lock up a playoff spot before earning the AFC South title. Houston then beat a Cleveland Browns team they lost to without Stroud weeks earlier before falling to the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round.
Now, Stroud and company will have a full offseason to work together and build on their 2023 season. Not everyone will return, but the core members of Stroud, wideouts Tank Dell and Nico Collins, and most of the offensive line will be back in 2024.