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How three undrafted rookies made the Texans initial 53-man roster

Kendall Lamm, center, is one of three undrafted free agents who made the Texans' 53-man roster. Getty Images/Ronald Martinez

HOUSTON -- When the 3 p.m. CT league roster deadline passed this Saturday, Greg Mancz got a call from his agent.

Go ahead and call your mom, his agent said. Though the waiver system could have changed his fate, Mancz had made the Houston Texans initial 53-man roster, as an undrafted rookie out of Toledo.

"She sort of screamed through the phone," Mancz said. She was going to fly down to help him drive home to Cincinnati if the Texans released him. For now, that became unnecessary.

Mancz was one of three undrafted rookies who made the Texans' initial 53-man roster this weekend. His roommate, offensive tackle Kendall Lamm, and outside linebacker Carlos Thompson didn't get a call on Friday or Saturday either. During cut-down weekend, no news is good news.

"They all improved at their own positions," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "They play tough football. They learned every day, they came to practice every day, they fought through things, and you know, at the end of the day like I said, at this point in time we feel like this is the best 53, but it’s constantly under evaluation but right now we felt like those guys were part of our 53."

Mancz met with the Texans at the NFL scouting combine and at his pro day. He might have been drafted were it not for a shoulder injury during the East West Shrine game.

"They told me you’re going to be an inside three, so get used to playing everywhere and never say no to an opportunity," Mancz said.

By training camp, Mancz was back on the field and the Texans gave him plenty of playing time at center and guard during the preseason. He played more offensive snaps than any other player.

Lamm came to Houston hopeful he could earn an opportunity. It wasn't until the Texans' third preseason game against the New Orleans Saints that he found his optimism bolstered by facts. Texans left tackle Duane Brown was out with a hand injury. Lamm would start in his place.

Lamm and Brown watched film together in preparation for the game, and Lamm held his own, earning O'Brien's praise.

"That for me showed, 'OK you can play against these guys,'" Lamm said. "Especially (facing) the starters as well. Maybe there’s an opportunity for you in this league. You’re never too sure, but that gave me some promising views to look at."

For Thompson the transition involved learning how to be an outside linebacker. He played defensive end at Mississippi and had rarely been asked to cover outside of the most simple assignments.

"Scheme, learning the outside linebacker (position) period," Thompson said. "How to cover. Stuff like that. That was probably my toughest thing. Being able to work with [coach Mike Vrabel] every day, having the will to learn helped me out a lot."

Having done all they could, Thompson, Lamm and Mancz, like so many of their teammates, tried to relax on Friday and Saturday. Thompson admitted the thought of whether or not he would be released never left his mind.

Mancz and Lamm went by the Texans facility as they would on a normal day. They came back to their hotel and played cards and video games. They tried to keep a regular schedule while remaining "on pins and needs," Lamm said.

The deadline passed, and the nerves could take a break. But they all knew it wasn't the end.

"It’s a big honor of course," Thompson said. "Just more so to stay on top of everything just in case your name was called. You know what to do. coaches tell us, your name was called, you have the opportunity make the best of it."