The gamble has paid off for Christian Covington.
The Surrey native opted into the National Football League (NFL) draft last spring, choosing not to play a fourth season with the Rice Owls of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association).
Four months later, the six-foot-two, 289-pound defensive lineman has cracked the roster of an NFL team, and Sunday afternoon will be on the field for the Houston Texans when they host the Kansas City Chiefs in the first game of the 20-15 season.
“Dream come true, I’m taking it in right now,” Covington told the Houston Chronicle after learning he had made the team. “I can’t be satisfied. I’m looking forward to the journey that lies ahead. I can’t wait to be on that field come Sunday.”
After a high school career with the Vancouver College Fighting Irish, Covington spent four years south of the border playing university football for the Rice Owls in Houston.
After sustaining a serious knee injury seven games into last season, he decided to enter the NFL draft and not play a final year with the Owls.
“It was a hard decision for me,” admitted Covington, 21, acknowledging some had questioned his choice of turning pro early. “Going into the (Hawaii) Bowl, it was my understanding I was probably going back to Rice for my fifth year. But once I was able to get away from football and school life, I took that time to come come and settle down, be with my family, and think about what’s best for me. I thought this was an opportunity to capture a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid.”
Selected in the sixth round by the Texans, Covington headed to camp in July hoping to crack the 53-man roster. He played in all four preseason games, improving in each outing. He totaled 10 tackles, including five in the final game last Thursday in Dallas against the Cowboys.
“It was a risk coming out early, especially with the injury that I had,” said Covington. “It turned out for the best.”
The Texans have listed Covington as second on the depth chart at the nose tackle position for Sunday’s game against Kansas City, behind veteran Vince Wilfork, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time Super Bowl champion.
“In the 3-4 defense, he’s a little bit undersized for the nose position,” said Texans head coach Bill O’Brien of Covington.
“But he made a lot of plays. He’s very active, he gets off blocks, great kid. You talk about a hard-working, really good, mature beyond his years type of kid.”
With four preseason games and the pressure of trying to make the team now behind him, Covington is going to enjoy his first regular season game as a National Football League player.
“It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time,” he said. “To finally see one of my dreams come true, it was a real good feeling.
“I’m happy to finally see that day come.”