Kamari Lassiter gives high praise to Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud

Before calling him a teammate in Houston, Kamari Lassiter knew C.J. Stroud as the enemy who had crossed into unauthorized territory. 

Lassiter, the Houston Texans second-round draft pickwas the anchor of a Georgia secondary hellbent on securing a second national title in as many seasons. Stroud, the Texans’ franchise quarterback and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, was ready to bring Ohio State back to the championship for the first time since 2014. 

For three hours at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Ohio State and Georgia battled it out in the College Football Playoff semifinal Peach Bowl. Lassiter and the Bulldogs secured the 42-41 victory after Buckeyes kicker Noah Ruggles missed a 50-yard field goal as time expired. 

Stroud, however, won the night by silencing the critics in his final college game. Lassiter, tasked with covering pass-catchers like Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Cade Stover, has a front-row seat to the premiere.

“C.J. Stroud gave us hell,” Lassiter said Friday evening after being selected 42nd overall. “I don’t remember too many passes hitting the ground. That was one of the few games where he truly didn’t have an answer for the quarterback.” 

Stroud was in a new element on New Year’s Eve, a prophecy to a new age in his career. He was elusive, trusting his feet to evade pressure from a defensive line with three future first-round picks. He was concise, looking for the “next play” rather than the home run ball. 

In Stroud’s finest moment for the Buckeyes, he delivered, tossing four touchdown passes while throwing for 348 yards. He completed nearly 68% of his passes and was near-perfect on third-down conversions. 

Football is a team sport and Stroud was playing as a one-man show in the game’s final 15 minutes. Marvin Harrison Jr. left after being hit in the head to be evaluated for a concussion and never returned. The Buckeyes were short-handed at receiver as eventual first-round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba elected to opt out before kickoff. 

Even then, Stroud remained steadfast, using his legs on the final two drives to set up field goal tries. The first one connected from 48 yards. 

The next went wide left with three seconds left. 

“We scraped out of there barely,” said Lassiter. 

Stroud’s 2022 ended in tragedy. His 2023 was filled with triumph. Houston made him its next franchise quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in April. Stroud rewarded their trust in him by becoming the fifth rookie in league history to throw for 4,000 yards in his first season. 

He also became the youngest quarterback to throw for over 200 yards and three touchdowns in a playoff game, and the youngest passer since Mark Sanchez in 2009 to win a postseason matchup. 

Lassiter used to know Stroud as a passer he wanted to pick off. Now, he’ll hopefully be picking off passes to get the ball back in Stroud’s hands. 

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire