Longest-tenured Texan? It’s Kareem Jackson
From Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson to Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.
From Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips to Bill O’Brien and Romeo Crennel.
From 6-10 to 12-4, then 2-14, three consecutive 9-7s and 4-12.
Stick around long enough — in the NFL, on Kirby Drive — and you really do start to see it all.
Proof: Kareem Jackson is now the longest-tenured Texan.
“I thought about that. I realized that,” said the ninth-year defender, who is transitioning from cornerback to safety as he approaches a decade in red and blue. “Man, it is crazy when you think about it. But I think it’s a good thing, to be one of the guys to be here the longest. … It says a lot when a guy’s with one team for that long.”
Punter Shane Lechler is 42 and entering his sixth season with the Texans, but didn’t jump from Oakland to Houston until the 2013 campaign. Veteran corner Johnathan Joseph is 34 and entering his eighth year with the Texans, but arrived via free agency a year after Jackson.
The No. 20 overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft — Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh and Eric Berry were taken before Jackson; Dez Bryant was selected four picks later and Tim Tebow was No. 25 — has now outlasted Duane Brown and Brian Cushing with the Texans, becoming one of the organization’s most dependable names as he enters his final year under contract with the only team he’s played for.
“He has an advantage because he’s played on the outside, he’s played on the inside. He understands what cornerbacks want,” said new Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu, who consistently partnered with Jackson in the secondary Tuesday inside the practice bubble near NRG Stadium. “He has a pretty good grasp of the defense, so he’s able to help out a lot of different guys. He’s a great communicator. Nick Saban coached him, so he’s good back there.”
After eight-plus seasons with one team, even something as major as an offseason position change becomes normal.
“Easy conversation between me and coach O’B. And that was that,” Jackson said. “For me, I look at it as an opportunity. Definitely helping the team. And with me being a versatile player, I was more than willing to do it.”
I spent some time following Jackson around during the 2015 offseason, when he was making the biggest decision of his career. Jackson drew attention across the league and was strongly pursued by Philadelphia, New Orleans and the New York Jets. He briefly hit the open market, but ultimately remained with the Texans via a four-year, $34 million contract.
“The Texans definitely stood by me when I was struggling,” Jackson said in March 2015. “For them to still have that trust in me … it shows their loyalty.”
His team has only won one playoff game since then and is coming off a 4-12 season. But Jackson has continued to build his life in Houston and has now played in 116 NFL games (108 starts) since his 2010 debut, recording 14 interceptions, 70 passes defensed and 472 combined tackles
“It’s worked out well. I made a great decision by signing back here,” Jackson said. “That was four years ago now. I think I made a great decision. Being here with coach O’Brien and the coaching staff, and just the players here and the community here, everything is great. … Everything worked out for the best.”
Little remains the same for long in the NFL. Danieal Manning, Antonio Smith and D.J. Swearinger have locally given way to Jadeveon Clowney, Justin Reid and the Honey Badger. But Jackson’s bond with Joseph has only grown stronger over time. United, they have spent 15 combined years running all over the field for the Texans’ defense and will increase the total to 17 if they both make it through the 2018 season together.
“Man, it’s amazing. To be able to play with a guy like Joe, with him coming here in my second year, the things that he taught me on and off the field helped progress my game,” Jackson said. “As a father and just everything, he has answers for everything. To be able to have a guy like that in your corner, to be able to play with him for (seven) years, it’s been a blessing to me and my career, as well. He’s definitely one of my best friends. He’s like a brother to me.”
The 2018 Texans barely resemble their 2010 selves. Just 18 days away from another Week 1, the longest-tenured Texan is now trying to bring his team’s defense back to its glory days.
“That’s the ultimate goal for us, is to be able to come out and perform the way we know we can perform,” Jackson said.