JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Eli Ankou is unfortunately becoming a bit of a hurricane expert these days.
The Jacksonville Jaguars nose tackle has only been in town for a few days but like the rest of the state of Florida is preparing for Hurricane Irma's weekend arrival. He had just spent the past four months with the Houston Texans and saw first-hand the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which brought historic rainfall and flooding to the city of Houston and other parts of Texas.
"It's following me around," Ankou joked, then quickly turned serious. "It is absolutely a little bizarre, but I honestly hope nothing but the best for the people in Houston and the people here [in Jacksonville] where a hurricane is very imminent, so we'll see where it [Irma] goes."
Ankou grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, and played at UCLA, so Harvey was his first hurricane experience. He was not in Houston when it hit -- the team played a preseason game in New Orleans on Aug. 26 and stayed in Dallas for the next three days -- but saw how terribly the storm impacted people's lives when the team bussed back to Houston on Aug. 30.
It was something he'll never forget, he said.
"Coming back and getting to see the people that were affected, it was crazy," Ankou said. "It was pretty crazy but they were strong. Everybody kept their head up and I think the people are ready to move forward.
"Shoot, the whole experience you never would think you would go thorough anything like it and see people go through it. It is absolutely crazy."
Ankou thought he'd still be in Houston this week helping the team not only prepare for the season opener against the Jaguars at NRG Stadium on Sunday, but helping the city continue to recover from the aftermath of Harvey. He had arrived at the Texans' facility last Sunday ready to sign a practice squad contract when he found out he was actually going east.
An assistant coach saw him and congratulated him and Ankou, who signed with the Texans as an undrafted rookie free agent in May, thanked him and told him he was excited to be joining the practice squad. That's how he found out the Jaguars had claimed him off waivers.
"I guess nobody knew," Ankou said. "I just showed up and the offer was on the table and they picked me up. It pretty much was a switch and now I was getting my brain ready for something completely different."