HOUSTON (AP) — Following his leukemia diagnosis, Houston Texans receiver John Metchie and other patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center would sit in an observatory gazing out the windows while hooked up to IVs that delivered their treatment.
In the distance they could see NRG Stadium, where the Texans play. Though it was only about two miles away, Metchie sometimes wondered if he’d ever get back.
“I’m not going to sit here and say no,” he said Thursday in his first public comments since being diagnosed. “I feel like at the beginning stages, of course, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what the future has in store for you. You of course, hope that you can come and play football, but I would say probably the beginning stages there might have been some doubt.”
But Metchie moved past those worries thanks to a strong faith and a great support system comprised of his mom and brothers and football family near and far that included the Texans and Alabama coach Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide teammates.
Metchie was cleared to join the Texans for training camp last week, almost exactly a year after receiving the diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia. He said the cancer was discovered when he got checked out after feeling like he had a cold and experiencing unusual headaches for a week or two.
A second-round pick in the 2022 draft, he missed his entire rookie year battling the disease. Metchie said he is “110%” now and actually feels better than he did in college.
Though his family was very supportive from afar, he said it was difficult to be in Houston for treatment while they were in Canada, where he grew up.
“There are a lot of challenging things that challenge you spiritually, mentally, physically,” he said. “But the most challenging part was just dealing with it with my family being in a different country for the most part. They would come down, but most of my loved ones were in a different country.”
The Texans hope that Metchie can contribute this season to improve an offense expected to feature second overall pick C.J. Stroud at quarterback. Metchie has already impressed early in camp by making some eye-popping plays.
“John Metchie’s demeanor hasn’t changed,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “He’s the same. He’s consistent. He’s positive. He’s a hard worker. Whenever he’s out at practice, he’s giving everything he has and you see him after practice doing extra, he’s trying to perfect his craft. So, I’m excited with his mentality and his work ethic. It’s cool to see.”
It’s a no-brainer for the 23-year-old to give everything he has at practice every day after waiting so long to get back on the field. He reflected on the first moment he ran out for training camp with his teammates last week.
“It was just gratitude,” he said. “I was really grateful that day that I was just able to come out here and start playing the game I love again worry free. I’m just able to play ball and not have to worry about much, just playing ball.”
Metchie had 96 receptions for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior at Alabama in 2021. He hasn’t played in a game since tearing a knee ligament in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4, 2021.
Despite his long layoff, he remains confident in his abilities and believes he’ll make an impact for the Texans this season.
“I always feel like I’m comfortable,” he said. “I beat the toughest battle and now living and being me is kind of just to be free and be confident in myself and my body of work and who I am. So… of course there’s a learning curve of learning to play this game with the team and chemistry and all of that. But as far as comfort in myself and my game, I have that completely.”