DeMeco Ryans gives a thumbs-up as he arrives at NRG Stadium in Houston for an NFL football news conference formally announcing him as the new head coach of the Houston Texans, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

There was something different about DeMeco Ryans’ introductory press conference as the Texans new football coach late Thursday afternoon.

The NRG Stadium corridor leading into the team meeting room was lined with photos in succession of Ryans from his 2006 rookie season with the Texans, through the years, and ended with a picture and caption that read Welcome Home DeMeco. The overflowing room was filled with media on one side and his family, former teammates and current players on the right side.

And as soon as Ryans entered the room, flanked by Texans CEO Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio, the right side of the room erupted with cheers and applause.

Clearly, Ryans has history here and it’s that history that his brought him back to Houston with the single goal of resurrecting the Texans franchise.

“It’s a surreal moment for me, and I’m thankful to God that He has just paved the way for me through everything that I’ve been through in life and for my paths to end up back here in my home, in H-Town where it all started,” said Ryans, who is known simply as Cap in these parts after he served as the Texans defensive captain during team’s glory years. “It’s truly a blessing. It’s still for me, I’m still trying to believe it. But this is outstanding, man.”

It is indeed a full circle moment for Ryans and one the hottest young coaching prospect coveted from the start. Nearly every team with a vacancy lined up for the defensive coordinator who had made the San Francisco 49ers one of the top defenses that last two years, but Ryans said it was really only one team he wanted to lead.

Ryans met his wife, Jamila, here in Houston and the two have remained fixtures in the community.

“When it came down to it, there is no place I wanted to be any more than H-Town,” said Ryans, who is 38 years old. “It was an easy pick for me. It was a no-brainer to be here, be home. It was a no-brainer. It wasn’t a difficult decision at all. It was very easy.”

For the first time in a while, it feels like the Texans have gotten their head coach right. McNair and Caserio have taken considerable criticism for firing David Culley and Lovie Smith – both African-American coaches – after just one season each.

But now it looks like they have a coach the franchise can be excited about long-term, as evidenced by the six-year contract he received.

“This young man exhibited everything we wanted as far as leadership, football knowledge, led one of the top defenses for the last two years, and he fits exactly what we’re looking for to lead our team into the future,” McNair said. “I’m not the first to say, but let me say it now, welcome you and your family to H-Town.”

The feeling around NRG on Thursday felt more celebratory than in the past with the cheerleaders at the door, and former teammates like Andre Johnson, Brian Cushing and Chester Pitts along with local celebrities Bun B and Trae tha Truth in attendance.

Even the normally strait-laced Caserio seemed much looser, even interrupting the conversation at times with light-hearted jokes that garnered laughter.

“I think everything that DeMeco exhibited as a player, what he’s done as a coach, his leadership, his selflessness, his toughness, his team-first mindset, his charisma, and I would say we didn’t really know each other, but the more and more time we spent together, it was almost a no-brainer as to who was the right fit for this team, this organization, this city,” said Caserio, who has hired his third coach in his third year on the job. “He is one of our own. He believes in our program. He has been in this building. He has been in our players’ shoes. He has been in this city.

“For him to come home, for him to give us the opportunity to be a partner with him, certainly grateful and appreciative and can’t wait to get started and can’t wait to get to work together.”

Ryans comes home to a franchise that is certainly not in the condition he left it. The Texans haven’t had a winning season since 2019 and are coming off a 3-13-1 season that came after consecutive four-win campaigns.

But the Texans have salary cap space and plenty of draft capital, including the No.2 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft which most assume will be a quarterback. In the meantime, Ryans’ focus is on building up the players on the roster the way he has so many who have come across his path.

Ryans has been nothing but an exemplary leader and motivator to those around him from the time he was starring as a linebacker at Alabama and during his tenure with Texans, where the captain of the Texans defense was simply known as Cap. It didn’t stop there, Ryans continued making a difference in others when he was traded to Philadelphia and during his six years on the San Francisco 49ers’ coaching staff.

“The reason I got into coaching was to help players,” Ryans said. “That’s the only reason I got into coaching. I was able to get that opportunity out in San Francisco after playing. I sat out for a year, and I was able to go out there, and it was truly about just helping others. That’s what I want to do here with our guys is just developing our young men, developing the players to be the best players they can be on the field, but also I want to develop men to be the best men off the field. Develop great husbands, great fathers, great community men. That’s what coaching is to me.”