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STEVE DeSHAZO: Houston-Carson making an impact for first-place Bears

STEVE DeSHAZO: Houston-Carson making an impact for first-place Bears

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LONG BEFORE he became the Chicago Bears’ defensive closer, DeAndre Houston–Carson had earned the respect of his teammates with his work ethic and humility.

Now, though, the Massaponax High School graduate’s reputation is spreading beyond The Windy City.

A backup and special-teams ace for most of his five-year NFL career, Houston–Carson has sealed the first-place Bears’ last two wins with defensive plays. He broke up Tom Brady’s fourth-down pass to clinch Chicago’s 20–19 victory over Tampa Bay on Oct. 8, then made his first career interception in the final minutes of last Sunday’s 23–16 triumph over

Carolina.

“I’m really proud of him; what a role player for us on this team on defense and special teams,” Bears coach Matt Nagy told reporters this week. “He’s just a quiet leader that does things the right way. He’s come up so big in these situations, and that’s what it’s all about.”

It’s been an up-and-down season for local NFL players. Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye, a North Stafford graduate, shares the NFL lead in field goals (16) but landed on the COVID-19 reserve list this week before being activated Friday. Teammate Yetur Gross–Matos, a rookie defensive end from Chancellor, has already dealt with a concussion and an ankle sprain and is on the injured reserve list.

And Mountain View grad DaeSean Hamilton is on thin ice in Denver after dropping a potential touchdown pass in last Sunday’s win over New England.

Of that group, Houston–Carson might have seemed the least likely to shine. But he got his chance as the Bears’ dime safety due to a hamstring injury to Deon Bush and has made the most of it. He stayed ready for a call that he figured would come eventually.

“I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t approach practice like a starter, just because you know how the league goes,” Houston–Carson told a reporter for the Bears’ team website.

“You can think of numerous examples of guys who weren’t necessarily starters, and when their time came to get out there, made plays and made good things happen. So for me, for the last few years, that’s what I’ve always tried to do is approach practice like it’s a game and try to make every rep count.”

Prior to this season, Houston–Carson’s contributions to the Bears (5–1) had come almost exclusively on special teams. In his first four seasons since being drafted in the sixth round out of William & Mary, he registered 24 special-teams tackles, forced two fumbles and recovered one in the kicking game, while also serving as the signal caller for the punting unit.

Even though he has never started an NFL game on defense, the Bears thought enough of him to re-sign him to a one-year, $1 million contract last spring—an investment that has already paid off.

Sunday evening, Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks tweeted that Houston–Carson is “one of the most disciplined players I’ve ever seen.” Former teammate Adrian Amos, who’s now with the Packers, retweeted Hicks and added: “Happy for my boy. Nobody works harder.”

Houston–Carson called his first professional interception “surreal.”

“When it was in the air, I was just thinking, ‘Catch the ball, just catch it,’ “ he said. “Afterwards, it just felt like a movie, kind of; things slow down and it was just surreal. It was nice that we knew all we had to do was take three knees and I’d get to celebrate with my teammates.”

After such a milestone, most NFL players keep the ball to place on a mantle. Houston–Carson said he plans to send it to his childhood friend, Sean Campbell, whose mother Sherry died over the weekend. “He was like a brother to me, and she was like a mother to me,” he said.

Bush has been limited in practice this week, which means Houston–Carson could continue to see more defensive action on Monday night, when the Bears visit the Los Angeles Rams. His recent success hasn’t changed his approach, though.

“I’ve never doubted my playmaking ability and my ability to play the defensive side of the ball,” he told the Bears’ website. “All you need is an opportunity, and so for me, my whole thing the last few years has just been to keep preparing and keep working hard, and then that way when the time comes, I could be ready for it.

“You hear about all types of stories of people who you see making plays or whatever it is and nobody knows about all the time they’ve been putting in,” he said. “They just see that moment. So I just have been trying to just prepare and pray and hope that when that moment comes, I’ll be ready for it. I also don’t want it to seem like I’ve arrived at all or anything like that. I’ve made a couple plays the last two weeks.”

Steve DeShazo: 374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

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