COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As teams move towards spread offense concepts and pass attempts increase by the season, the fullback is becoming somewhat of an endangered position in the NFL. But not in Houston.
It is there that the Texans have emerged as one of the league's up-and-coming teams, amassing a combined 22-10 record in the past two seasons while winning consecutive AFC South division championships. And they've done so by relying on run-blocking fullbacks to pave the way for ball-carriers Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
Between Houston's recent success and reliance on the fullback position while achieving it, Zach Boren couldn't find a better fit for himself upon hitting the free agent market following the conclusion of last month's NFL Draft.
"They run a two-back system offense, they need a fullback, they lost their fullback from last year," Boren said. "They're a young up-and-coming team, so I wanted to be a part of that."
It didn't take long for the former Ohio State captain to choose where he'd begin his professional career, as it became clear in the seventh round of the draft that he would likely go undrafted. In fact, the draft hadn't even reached it's conclusion before Boren had decided on becoming a Texan.
"We kind of new going into it that Houston was the best fit, so when Houston didn't draft a fullback and they needed one, they were in contact with my agent," he said. "I kind of agreed to the deal in the seventh round, so it was kind of before everything happened. They were in contact with my agent the whole time, it was kind of a gentlemen's agreement before the draft even ended."
The Texans' need for a fullback stems from their loss of James Casey, who signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason. Boren will join fellow fullbacks Greg Jones and Tyler Clutts on Houston's roster in attempting to replace Casey in the Texans' starting lineup.
A nine-year veteran, Jones is the odds on favorite to land the Texans' starting spot, although the franchise has typically kept two fullbacks on its roster. That means that it'll be up to Boren to beat out Clutts, who is entering his third season in the NFL.
"Just put in as much time as possible to learn the new system, and then when you're out on the field, you have to be the first guy in line, the first one to finish," Boren said when asked what it'll take for him to make the Texans' roster. "It's one of those things where you just go 110 percent all the time."
After paving the way for the likes of Dan Herron, Brandon Saine, and Carlos Hyde in the first 3 and a half years of his career, Boren made the move to linebacker at the midway point of his senior season, helping the Buckeyes' cap off a perfect 12-0 season. Lauded by Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer for his selflessness and leadership abilities, Boren knows that he'll now fall to the bottom of the pecking order in the NFL, but he won't allow that to change the way he plays the game.
"I think that will be a hard thing, finding your place. I know I'm going to be myself. I'm always a vocal guy, I'm always screaming, yelling out on the field, and always kind of a leader," Boren said. "I was like that when I first got here as a freshman, so I'm going to keep that attitude, because that's just the way I am."
While his goal is to make the Texans as a fullback, Boren's primary objective is to just make the squad. And if that means making a position switch like he did for the Buckeyes in 2012, then he's more than willing to do just that.
"I'll do whatever they want me to do. I know being versatile in college is going to help me on special teams there. Every young guy in the NFL plays special teams, so I think that will help me out a little bit with tackling in the open field and everything," Boren said. "I know they need bruiser fullback like I did my first three years here, and if they want me to play linebacker, I guess I'll do that too."