It was a Friday morning practice session.
The Detroit Lions had spent the week preparing to open the regular season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The team’s last practice session preceding their flight to Tampa had concluded and the players were funneling from the practice field to the locker room.
One player and one coach remained behind.
Cornerback Chris Houston had decided to stay on the field with defensive back coach Tim Walton to work on an area of his game he felt needed improvement.
Houston stood 15-20 yards in front of Walton with his back towards his position coach. Walton threw him passes to his left, his right as well as over his shoulder and Houston had to locate the ball (without turning his body around) and make the catch.
Two days later, in the second quarter of the Lions contest against the Buccaneers, Houston had an over-the-shoulder interception of a deep pass from quarterback Josh Freeman.
“Staying after, doing ball drills…” said Houston. “I just incorporated that into my off-the-field work outs after practice and before practice. It’s paying off during games. I’m more comfortable with playing the ball in the air and being alert with tip balls. Extra work always pays off when you put it in and that’s the area
I know I wanted to work in and improve in, so I stayed after practice doing that.”
The interception was the fruit of Houston’s labor on the field and in the film room.
He not only demonstrated his improved ball skills but also proved he was anticipating the play.
Through film study, Houston was able to quickly diagnose the situation and accurately predict Tampa’s play call.
“Once you see different formations you are alert to what they are trying to do,” said Houston. “You are able to anticipate routes. In the Tampa game, that’s a route that they like to do and they did it to us last year against Vas (Nathan Vasher) and actually scored on it. I know they are going to try and throw a post on the cover-four coverage and that’s what they did. I was just in the right spot in the right time and just made a play on the ball. Extra film study always helps because you are able to slow things down when you’re playing.”
Houston has always had high expectations accompanied by lofty goals for himself. He’s also worked hard but has elevated his focus this year.
He is currently tied for the league lead in interceptions (two) and passes defended (six), while also adding 10 tackles.
Houston is far from satisfied and continues to put forward a tireless effort as he attempts to propel himself into the conversation of the league’s top cornerbacks.
“I want to be that cornerback on this team and in this league that’s improving," said Houston. “I’m working hard at it and hopefully after 16, 17 weeks I will have met some of my goals.”