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T.J. Hoping His On the Field Play Pays Off

Wide out T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who plays second fiddle to Chad Johnson, has been working hard on agility drills to become a more explosive receiver for the 2007 season. Already a precise route runner with solid speed and great hands, Houshmandzadeh is hoping his tireless practice will translate into a new deal with Cincy. He is entering the third year of a four-year, $13 million deal, which makes him one of the most underpaidn stars in the NFL.  He’s playing through the final years of his contract how it’s supposed to be done, you hear that Terrell Owens, and all the other cash-seeking, touchdown celebrating, trash-talking wide receivers? 

With all the effort and work Houshmandzadeh puts in, it should “pay” off in the end.  He deserves the credit to be called one of the Bengals’ most productive players.  Being drafted in the 7th round is being put into a tough spot.  Most players are just happy to be drafted and only hope to get signed and play one day in the NFL.  It usually stops right there and you do not think much of a 7th round draft choice after he’s drafted.  As they all come and go unforgotten, one does lengthen his stay more than the rest.  With T.J., he pushed himself in practice, becoming a reliable target for QB Carson Palmer, now for years to come. 

He does not have the blazing speed, flare for the acrobatic highlight reel, or the “talk” to his memoir; instead he just gets the job done on gameday.  It wasn’t easy at first for Houshmandzadeh as he missed almost the whole 2003 season with a severe hamstring injury.  He rebounded the next season in impressive fashion, catching 73 passes for close to 1,000 yards receiving.  In 2005 he started after Peter Warrick left, and scored 7 touchdowns for Cincinnati.  He has come out of nowhere and has turned into one of the finest pass catchers in all of the NFL, as he dropped a total of ‘only’ three passes in ‘05, ranking first in that category.  He is now a household name, a tough name to spell and repeat, that is. 

He has to admit that the long hair and long, often mispronounced 14-lettered last name on the back of his jersey, makes him more known than he ever could’ve imagined coming out of Oregon State.  He was drafted in the same year and from the same school, as teammate Chad Johnson.  He could have been that normal, average practice squad player who spends a couple of months to a year on the team before he gets cut, in order to trim the roster. This was not the case with T.J. though, as he persevered through it all (former High School dropout) becoming an inspiration/role model for future 7th round selections that are overshadowed in college as back-ups because of a lack of superior talent. 

Carson Palmer had this to say about his up and coming star WR, “T.J.’s a physical guy; a physical blocker, physical when he gets the ball. He’s like (the Pittsburgh Steelers’) Hines Ward.”  You can obviously see it has been a good run for this converted, physical RB, who humbly changed to the WR position.  Houshmandzadeh is a first down catching machine, racking up around 160 the past three seasons.   Now coming off his first 1,000-yard season (90 receptions), along with collecting nine touchdowns, he can look back to his tremendous list of accomplishments and continue to open eyes as a superb wideout under coach Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati. 

With his career numbers in five years (72 games) of playing, the durable receiver has caught over 300 passes and is approaching in on 4,000 yards.  He should be paid like a second tier WR.  With a long-term contract extension awaiting him, he is going about business via the “professional” route, earning the dough, as everyone watches him blossom into a star player.  He is one of the best bargains and under appreciated players in the National Football League.

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