Thanksgiving evokes memories of Dad for Texans' Greg Mancz

In sixth grade, Greg Mancz's Pee Wee football team won a national tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida. His father, Brian, died less than three months later when Mancz was 11. Courtesy of the Mancz family

HOUSTON -- Greg Mancz has a pregame ritual.

Before every game, the Houston Texans offensive lineman goes behind the bench and talks to his dad, Brian, who died of natural causes at age 53 in 2004 when Mancz was 11.

Mancz said it's his "calming moment," as he spends three or four minutes talking to his dad about the game, what he's excited for and thanking him for all that he did to help his NFL dream come true.

It was Brian who gave Mancz a love of football, one that started while watching Cleveland Browns games growing up in Ohio and playing board games together at 1 p.m. every Sunday.

And with Thanksgiving approaching, Mancz thinks back to one of his "absolute favorite memories" involving his dad and football. In sixth grade, Mancz's Pee Wee football team was playing in a national tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida. Because it was over Thanksgiving break, both of Mancz's parents, Brian and Mary Beth, were in Florida with him.

Though Mancz's Forest Hills Bulldogs won the tournament by beating teams from Georgia and South Carolina, that trip with his parents resonates with Mancz because Brian died less than three months later.

"Everyone and their parents came," Mancz said. "My mom and my dad were there, and it was my last big thing before he passed. So there's a really cool picture of me and him with the trophy that I still have in my room back home."

Mancz has been with the Texans since 2015, when he signed with Houston as an undrafted free agent. In 2016, he started all 16 games at center and played well after Nick Martin suffered a season-ending ankle injury during training camp. In his 39 games for Houston, Mancz has been reliable and versatile. In Sunday's 23-21 victory against the Washington Redskins, Mancz filled in at right guard after Zach Fulton left with a shoulder injury in the first half.

Mancz has had success at the NFL level, and he credits the lessons his dad taught him -- on and off the field -- as one of the reasons why.

"My dad was the person who showed me how to be a good guy," Mancz said. "He used to tell me things like, 'You know, Greg, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.' Lessons like that.

"And he taught me to love football. I fell in love with football because of Sunday afternoons watching Browns games and him yelling at the TV at 1 p.m. every week."