John Metchie III bolted across the practice field Friday afternoon, looking confident and comfortable while running next to his new teammates.
The Houston Texans' speedy wide receiver wasn't encumbered by a knee brace as he participated on a limited basis during a rookie minicamp Friday afternoon.
And Metchie is determined to make good on his prediction that he'll be ready for training camp after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during the Southeastern Conference championship game.
The Texans are upbeat about his progress, but won't rush Metchie in his next steps before fully clearing him for football activities.
“I talked about us initially just taking everybody through a certain amount of tests to see exactly where they are," Texans coach Lovie Smith said. "We’re in the process of seeing exactly when John would be ready to go. Eventually, he will be ready to go. There’s a lot that he can do before that. He’s not 100 percent yet, but in time he will be.
"I don’t have that timetable set yet, but in the upcoming weeks we’ll be able to tell that a little bit more. For us, he is going to play this year. It’s all, as much as anything, about the mental preparation, them catching up, getting in the playbook. You’d be surprised the amount of things we ask of young people and what they have to get down.”
Drafted in the second round with the 44th overall selection after trading a third-round selection and two fourth-round selections, Metchie emphasized following the draft he will be ready and fully ready for all activities for training camp.
“As far as the recovery, I will be good to play football in July. I will be good to go, no training wheels," Metchie said. "I have been running already for the last couple months. Cutting, jumping, doing all those types of things. When I say I will be ready to go in July, it's full-go football."
Metchie was a projected first-round draft pick prior to the injury. He caught 96 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
"It's an honor," Metchie said of becoming the latest Alabama wide receiver to be drafted. "It's the standard for Alabama football. It's an honor to finally become one of the guys."
Metchie's work ethic is legendary in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where he worked closely with performance trainer Christian Roshell, who also works closely with NFL players and Alabama football alums Jaylen Waddle, Patrick Surtain II, Levi Wallace and Brian Robinson, among several others.
Roshell first met Metchie when he was a freshman for the Crimson Tide.
His first impression: "Damn, he works hard."
Since that initial meeting, Roshell has watched Metchie continue to grow and make strides on and off the field.
"I think he's going to be a really good player for the Houston Texans, and he's going to be an even better person in the community," Roshell said. "He's big on giving back and helping kids who are less fortunate. I don't talk to him too much about where he's at as far as his knee.
"We basically talk about life with most of our conversations centered on things he wants to do while he's playing football. One thing people should never have to doubt is he's going to work hard. He's going to put the work in to be the best he can be. If he says he's going to do something, then he's going to do it. If he says he's going to be ready by a certain date, then you believe him. If he's not, it's not going to be because he didn't work damn hard to get there."
After maneuvering to draft Metchie, Texans general manager Nick Caserio praised him heavily.
Caserio also downplayed his timetable for getting on the field and being fully cleared to play.
"His story is probably as unique as anybody in the draft, very worldly, I mean, this kid is an awesome kid, very smart, very studious, tough as nails," Caserio said. "Some of the things that he did at Alabama and some of the things he endured and played with, just no normal people would do it. This guy's level of toughness is exceptional. He was a really, really productive player for them and has some position versatility. I know there's questions. When is he going to be ready? When is he going to be available?
"I wouldn't put too much stock in what he said. I think when he is ready, he is ready. Whenever that is, it is. We're not going to rush or push him. When he is ready and physically able, we feel that it's the right thing to do, then he will be on the field. Until then he will do everything he can to get himself to that point. I certainly wouldn't put any time table on it or any expectation on it. When he is ready, he will be ready, but another player that I would say we like probably as much as any football player in the draft. When you watch him play, he plays a receiver with a mindset mentality that I would say is a little bit different.
In 2020, Metchie started 11 games when Waddle got hurt and caught 55 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns.
A former four-star recruit, Metchie was cleared to play football after being diagnosed with a slightly enlarged heart in high school.
"His patience impresses me so much," Roshell said. "His ability to be so good and wait behind DeVonta Smith and Jaylen and Jameson Williams and then win a national championship having had to wait and be just as dynamic as those guys. I think he's the forgotten guy.
"He's one of the few Alabama receivers who didn't go in the first round, and I think a lot of that had to do with his injury, in my opinion. He's just as good and works just as hard or harder than those guys. He's so mature."
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and analyst and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.