Texans' Andre Hal: 'It was a blessing' to play again with cancer in remission

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- During pregame warmups, Houston Texans safety Andre Hal looked up to the sky, grateful to be back and about to play in his first game since he was diagnosed with cancer in May.

And while he was looking up, he thanked his dad, Andre Hal Sr., who had a heart attack this month and died Tuesday at the age of 55.

"He wanted to see me back on the field, and I know he was watching today," Hal said.

Hal was added to the 53-man roster on Saturday after he practiced for the first time earlier in the week. He also found out Saturday that he would be playing in the game. Hal started Sunday in the Texans' 20-7 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"It was great to be back. It felt great. It was a blessing," Hal said. "Everybody was really excited for me. People didn't really think I was going to come back. But I knew I was going to come back."

Before he was added to the active roster this weekend, Hal had been on the non-football illness list since the team announced his cancer diagnosis in June. Hal was diagnosed after he came off the field from practice with blurry vision during OTAs. The doctors found lymphoma in his armpit and abdomen.

Because he wanted a less harsh treatment on his body so he could have a chance to play this season, Hal elected not to do chemotherapy, but instead tried a treatment plan involving a drug being administered via IV that his doctor told him would give him a good prognosis to beat the disease. On Sept. 18, the doctors told Hal that he was in remission.

"He had been working out. He had been staying in shape working with (senior director of sports performance) Luke (Richesson) and his crew," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "And we felt good about his ability to be ready to play. And then he practiced a few days this week, felt good about where he was at.

"Give him a lot of credit. He stayed in great shape, which a lot of guys don't do. ... He did, and he was ready to play."

Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney called Hal "one of the hardest working guys I've ever been around." Defensive end J.J. Watt tweeted after the game that the win was for Hal.

"The thing about 'Dre is he'll never let you know when anything's wrong," Watt said. "He's always got a positive attitude, he's always got an incredible, driven mindset. I told him the other day that he's one of my favorite teammates that I've ever played with. He just comes to work every single day with a smile on his face with the most determined attitude, ready to work. And if it was never reported, I'm sure there's a whole bunch of people, including myself, that would have never known anything was wrong."

Hal, who started all 16 games for the Texans last year, has played for Houston for all five of his NFL seasons. The safety signed a three-year contract with Houston last August.

"My mind has always been on football. I never got my mind off football. I stayed in all the meetings, I watched all the games," Hal said. "So when I got in there, it just felt natural."