HOUSTON (AP) — C.J. Stroud had much bigger things on his mind than football after a record-setting performance in Houston’s win over Tampa Bay on Sunday.
When asked about setting the NFL mark for most yards passing by a rookie with 470 yards and five touchdowns in the 39-37 victory, he instead took the moment to talk about what he’s going through off the field.
His father Coleridge Bernard Stroud, III, remains incarcerated after receiving a 38-years-to-life sentence in 2016 after pleading guilty to charges of carjacking, kidnapping and robbery in a drug-related incident.
“What I’ve been battling with is trying to still be a family man, still help out, and still be a football player and do my job,” the quarterback said. “It’s been tough.”
During his successful first season, he’s relied heavily on a strong support system consisting of his mother and siblings, his teammates, friends back home and his dad — even though the man he was named for may never get to see his son play in person.
“I got to talk to my dad a little bit this week,” he said. “And I’m praying to God that something can happen that he can get out and come to one of these games. I’ve been praying for him a lot.”
His father has been in prison since Stroud was in middle school and is currently serving time at Folsom State Prison near Sacramento.
He said he wasn’t sure he wanted to speak publicly about the situation Sunday, but was moved to support his father and others in prison.
“Our criminal justice system isn’t right, and it’s something that I need to probably be a little more vocal about, because what he’s going through is not right,” he said. “He called me this week, and we got to talk, and I’m praying for the situation and a reform, and the people with reform are helping me a little bit. But, I think just letting it be known that it’s not just my dad’s situation, but the whole criminal justice system is corrupt.”
While his first concern is for his father, he added that he was upset by videos he has seen of squalid conditions at prisons in Mississippi.
“Some of the prisons there have rats, roaches and things like that,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong — criminals, they should do their time, but they’re still humans, know what I mean? I just want to shine a light on that really quick.”
Stroud then moved on to talk of X’s and O’s, routes and defensive coverages and his stellar play. But all those things took a backseat to what really mattered to the 22-year-old on Sunday.