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Notes: James Houston ‘kicking down doors’ for other HBCU players

Jackson State linebacker Aubrey Miller Jr. is getting his opportunity in the draft process, and he credits James Houston for opening the door.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

What a whirlwind of a rookie year it must have been for Detroit Lions edge defender James Houston. From opening the season on the practice squad, to finishing the year second among all rookies in sacks—trailing only teammate Aidan Hutchinson—there haven’t been many rookie seasons in recent memory that were like Houston’s 2022 campaign. And because of his success, other players from HBCU’s (Historically Black colleges and Universities) like Jackson State’s Aubrey Miller feel like they now have a fighting chance.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press has more on how Houston is breaking down barriers.

“He’s kicking down doors for us,” Miller said on day one of Senior Bowl practice Tuesday. “A lot of things that’s going on right now, I don’t think it was possible before and he’s making it be able to be possible. So for us to come out here and perform and represent, and after that the things that he’s doing, like I said, he’s allowing doors to open so we’re going to have to keep knocking them down and then we’re going to keep this thing going for the guys that’s under us.”

Just like his rookie year was unconventional, so was his path to the NFL. Houston began his collegiate career at the University of Florida where he played mostly off-ball linebacker, before eventually transferring to Jackson State. Once there, former head coach Deion Sanders saw something in Houston, and moved him to the edge where Houston would wreak havoc for the entirety of the 2021 college football season. Miller had a similar path, only his move was to weakside linebacker. With all of the shared experiences, Miller and Houston remain close.

“That’s my brother,” Miller said of Houston. “Since he got there, we already knew we had close to the same stories as far as getting a second chance, being able to play, and now this is our chance to make up for that opportunity that we did lose.”

This week, Houston was at the East-West Shrine Bowl—where he was at this time last year—to help use his story to inspire others:

You can read the entirety of Birkett’s story here.

And now, onto the rest of today’s notes:

  • Brad Gagnon of the Bleacher Report goes through six teams he believes are ready to take major steps in 2023.

  • The Lions dropped another highlight video, this time featuring wide receiver DJ Chark.

  • The Lions also dropped some new wallpapers in honor of Black History Month kicking off.

  • Happy birthday to Lions’ safety Tracy Walker. I can’t wait to see him and Kerby Joseph patrolling the secondary together in 2023.

  • Continuing with Walker, back in October he said he was hoping to return from his Achilles tear by OTAs. On Wednesday, he sounded even more confident in that timeline via Twitter:

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