The Texans are full of star talent such as quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive end J.J. Watt, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. But one person that people often don’t realize is also one of these premier players would be Houston Texans fullback Jay Prosch.

Jay Prosch was a star athlete at UMS-Wright Preparatory School in Mobile, Alabama, where he played linebacker on the football team and ran track. Prosch became a team captain on the football team and led them to a 4A AHSAA state championship, sometimes filling in as a fullback in short yardage situations.

Jay Prosch at UMS-Wright Preparatory School (AL.com).

After his illustrious high school career, Prosch went to the University of Illinois to play as a fullback full-time in 2012. But sadly, things took a turn for his mother who was battling brain cancer and dementia at the time.

Because of this, Prosch transferred to Auburn University to be closer to his mother during her final moments. And tragically, Prosch’s mother fell into a coma the same night he made his college debut against Clemson. Two days later, Iris Prosch was pronounced dead. Just two days after the funeral, Prosch played another game against Mississippi State. This unwillingness to miss a game and abandon his teammates, no matter what the circumstances, is something that Prosch has held onto his entire career.

Jay Prosch with his mother Iris.

While he continued to play fullback for the Auburn Tigers, he got two different tattoos to remember his mother. One was a Jewish saying that could be translated into, “be strong and courageous”. The other was a depiction of an iris flower with the words, “Life’s not about learning how to get through the storm but learning to dance in the rain.” You can see both tattoos on his forearms every game.

Prosch capped off his college career by helping the Auburn Tigers lead college football in rushing offense. He was also a member of the South team that had a 20-10 victory over the North in the senior bowl.

Jay Prosch during the senior bowl (AL.com).

This spectacular season led to Prosch being one of the leading fullback prospects coming into the 2014 NFL Draft. But sadly, Prosch was not one of the three fullbacks invited to the NFL Combine, and instead had to perform for scouts at his Pro Day.

During this Pro Day, Prosch shined, sprinting for a 4.72 40-yard dash and doing 27 reps on the bench press; both outstanding marks for a fullback. For comparison, his 40-yard dash would’ve ranked sixth among tight ends and his bench press would’ve ranked first among fullbacks at the combine that year.

Jay Prosch at Auburn Pro Day (AL.com).

After his tumultuous college career, Prosch was selected in the sixth round, 211th overall, by the Houston Texans and signed a four-year, $2.29 million contract. Only Prosch and two other fullbacks were selected that year, meaning that Prosch even got drafted over some of the fullbacks whom the NFL Combine chose over him! He would be replacing retired fullback Greg Jones, who was an elite fullback in the league for many years: mostly with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With these big shoes to fill, Prosch suffered a broken hand and missed two preseason games. Despite this, he still participated in practice and got praise from head coach Bill O’Brien for his toughness. This toughness that he has displayed since his days at Auburn has allowed Prosch to hold a firm grip on the fullback job for the Houston Texans, only missing one game his entire career.

Jay Prosch “brings a certain toughness”
to the Texans according to head coach Bill O’Brien (Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

After being a stable force on the Texans offense for three seasons, Prosch received a three-year, $5.75 million contract extension last offseason. And he has made a great return on investment on this contract so far in 2017, receiving 73.8 Pro Football Focus grade that ranks him fifth among all fullbacks. This 73.8 grade is slightly less than pro-bowler James Develin’s 79.8 grade, and higher than pro-bowler Kyle Juszczyk’s 71.1 grade. So basically, Jay Prosch is a Pro Bowl caliber fullback that doesn’t get enough recognition.

Even with the tragic death of his mother, being declined from the NFL Combine, and suffering a broken hand early in his career, Jay Prosch continually fought through these obstacles with a positive attitude and is now one of the elite fullbacks in football. His positivity exhibits how he knows to “dance in the rain” in the face of obstacles, just like his tattoo reminds him every day.

Jay Prosch on the sidelines with the tattoo on his left arm that is translated into “be strong and courageous” (Brandon Wade/Associated Press).

So even though you probably don’t know who he is, Jay Prosch is a Pro Bowl caliber fullback, a player who’s overcome many obstacles, a man who understands you need to “dance in the rain”,  and is the Forgotten Texan that we should learn to appreciate.

 

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