CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CHARLOTTE SPORTS LIVE) – Justin Houston doesn’t go around bragging, but man, does he have some interesting stories.
“If you ask, I’ll tell you about me,” he said.
At times, they often sound more like tall tales. Like when he removed a cyst from his body with his bare hands.
“I still have the scar on my chest,” he laughed.
Or when he saved his brothers from their burning home
“That was a crazy time,” he sighs. “I was in 9th grade when that happened.”
He was in middle school when he had dreams of being a star running back. Then reality, or more likely a much bigger kid, hit him very hard.
“I got off the ground, but I knew right then I didn’t want to take another hit,” Houston said.
It was then that the legend of Houston, the linebacker, began.
“I’d rather give a lick than take a lick,” he smiles.
Roughly decades later, the 6’3″, 270-pounder has handed out plenty, with potentially more on the way here with the Panthers. The 13-year vet initially planned on spending another season with Baltimore.
But then, over the summer, came a plot twist in the form of an unexpected ring from his former Indianapolis ring leader.
“Frank [Coach Riech] called me, and he was like,’ I want you here,’” Houston remembered. “As soon as we hung up the phone, I told my wife, ‘we’re going to Carolina.’”
Carolina was (is) young, but the 34-year-old didn’t see a problem. Instead, he saw an opportunity to help shape a team on the rise.
“I try to lead by example,” he said. “Once I’m leading by example. They can come and ask millions of questions.”
More often than not, they get answers. Houston has pretty much seen it all. Hence, he didn’t panic when fellow linebacker Brian Burns, in the midst of a contract dispute, missed practice for a few days. It’s also why he’s not panicking now, with the team struggling to find itself.
“I know this defense can be very special if we continue to learn how to jell and push forward; it’s going to be special.”
Houston says he came to Carolina still chasing that elusive Super Bowl ring. It’s clearly a long shot, but then again, he’s got the stories and the scars to prove it’s all possible.