Former Virginia Tech defensive lineman winning over Houston Texans coach in mini camp

Former Hokie DL Pheldarius Payne impressing early in mini camp for the Houston Texans.
Oct 15, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans head coach DeMaco Ryans looks on during the first
Oct 15, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans head coach DeMaco Ryans looks on during the first / Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2024 NFL Draft, one player who impressed some teams was Virginia Tech defensive lineman Pheldarius Payne. He turned some heads at the Virginia Tech Pro Day and ended up with having Top 30 meetings with some teams, including the New York Giants.

Although he impressed ahead of the draft, he never had his name called, but it didn't take long after the draft was over for him to agree to an undrafted contract. Payne ended up signing with the AFC South defending champion Houston Texans and he is currently in his first mini camp in Texas but appears to be impressing his new team.

Houston Texans coach DeMaco Ryans impressed with Pheldarius Payne

Second-year Texans coach DeMaco Ryans has been impressed with Payne in the early going and hopes he can find a spot for the former Hokie on his defense with explosiveness and speed.

"He's an undersized defensive tackle that is very explosive and quick. You saw him make a lot of plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage, utilizing his explosiveness, his quickness. We would like to see him translate that to our scheme and what we do. We have some smaller defensive linemen on our team, and I think when guys play the style of ball that I want to play - guys are attacking and we can utilize his quickness — hopefully, Payne can be a guy who can add to that group as well.


DeMaco Ryans

Payne had a strong final season in 2023 with Virginia Tech and was a big part of the turnaround of the defense once ACC play began when they started getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and piling up the sacks. It's still early in mini-camp and then training camp over the summer, but so far, so good for Payne with Houston as an undrafted lineman.