WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Shortly after the Houston Texans opened their first day of training camp at The Greenbrier on Wednesday, Dana Holgorsen and several members of his coaching staff at West Virginia walked into practice and began to take in the sights.
It’s a fairly common thing for Holgorsen and his assistants to attend camps like this — they’ve gone to The Greenbrier in past years when the New Orleans Saints held camp at the resort and they have plans to go to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers practice as well. For the coaches, it’s a good way to spend the final handful of days before the Mountaineers open camp and begin preparing for the new season.
“We always come here and watch for a couple days, go up and watch the Steelers for a day or two and then we can get started after that,” Holgorsen said. “This is when things start to get going. It gets to a point now where I’m tired of vacation. We’re ready to get back to work.”
Being in White Sulphur Springs to see the Texans is also special for Holgorsen in a different way as it serves as an opportunity to get to catch up with some of his former players that are on the roster and coaching staff for Houston.
Former Mountaineer safety K.J. Dillon and former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden were out working with their teammates Wednesday afternoon while Wes Welker, a former receiver at Texas Tech, has joined the coaching staff as an offensive and special teams assistant.
Dillon was drafted by the Texans in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, but spent most of last season on injured reserve after suffering a torn ACL in the Texans’ Week 6 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
“I can’t wait to go out there and give [K.J.] a hug. He’s a great kid,” Holgorsen said. “Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game. There’s short-term and long-term risk in this game and you’ve got to kind of deal with that. He had a setback last year, but I think he’s going to come back stronger than ever.
“He’s one of the best guys you can ask for in the locker room. He’s a really good kid and he’s going to do well here.”
Weeden came to Houston in 2015 after the Texans claimed him off waivers in November. The 33-year-old signal caller was taking reps during Wednesday’s practice alongside of Tom Savage and 2017 first-round draft pick Deshaun Watson.
Holgorsen believes that Weeden’s veteran presence can be an asset to a team like Houston.
“He’s just an old man, he’s older than me,” Holgorsen joked. “He’s a really good player, he’s good for the Texans with what he can bring to them. He came from a wonderful family and I’m excited he’s here [so I can get] to see him too.”
And while Holgorsen is here to watch his former players get a chance to prove they’re ready to earn playing time, he’s also interested in seeing how Welker adjusts to moving over into coaching. After playing in Holgorsen’s offense at Texas Tech with coach Mike Leach, Welker had a 12-year NFL career in which he played in five Pro Bowls and was first-team All-Pro twice. Now that he’s moving into the next phase of his career, Holgorsen expects him to flourish just as much as he did when he was playing.
“I was with him in Houston about two months ago, and I said, ‘Are you really doing this thing?’ And he said, ‘I’m in.’ ” Holgorsen said. “His football knowledge is unbelievable, his competitiveness is unbelievable. He’s going to do really well in this profession.”
As for Holgorsen and his staff, when they come to watch these training camps, it’s mostly a chance to get to take in an NFL practice. They can get a look at different things they can run when they open up camp, and of course they get the added bonus of being back around players from past years.
“You can always pick up a drill or two, but there’s nothing schematic we can really get out of it unless we talk to them for about a week,” Holgorsen said. “Right now it’s more about just watching some drills and seeing some old friends. That’s really important.”
The Texans have enjoyed their new training camp home, as the players and coaches talked at length after practice Wednesday praising the facilities at The Greenbrier.
The resort has been able to provide the team with a first-class setup for their camp while also allowing the players to continue to build their chemistry as they take training camp on the road.
“This is a great place. Obviously we miss the Houston fans and we know how important it is to them, but we’ll be back in a few weeks,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “But this gives us a great chance to bond, to eliminate distractions and become a better football team.”