Max Scharping’s head isn’t spinning, at least not yet.
Tasked with absorbing an extensive amount of knowledge and nuances of the Texans’ playbook, the rookie offensive tackle is leaning heavily on his work ethic and intellect.
Academically proficient with a 3.99 grade point average at Northern Illinois and the owner of a master’s degree in exercise physiology, Scharping is proving to be a quick study.
“Smart, tough durable,” Texans offensive line coach Mike Devlin said Saturday during a lineman clinic at St. Thomas High School. “Can play multiple positions, excited.”
As the Texans overhaul their offensive line, they drafted bookend tackles.
In the first round, the Texans selected Alabama State left tackle Tytus Howard. One round later, the Texans landed Scharping. He’s a natural right tackle who can also line up at guard.
So far, Scharping hasn’t been overwhelmed while adapting to the increased speed of the game in the NFL and cross-training at tackle and guard.
“I think the vets have been helping a lot to help us get accumulated to the new schemes and the offense,” Scharping said. “It’s really just a lot about being a great teammate, just showing up every day, being the same guy.
“I’m just trying to do the best that I can. When I go in there, they tell me to go in at guard, tackle, whatever. It’s just doing the best that I can do at that position.”
Rather than awaiting the proverbial ‘Welcome to the NFL’ moment, Scharping is embracing the daily process of improving his blocking skills and technique.
“I think almost every day there is something like that,” Scharping said. “You’re always trying to learn and do better. I think almost every day is probably something like, ‘Yeah, OK, need to fix that.’ It’s definitely different than the college game, obviously.
“In college, most of the time you’re in pads, even in the spring. It takes a little bit of time to get used to the tempo, and you kind of learn that from the vets as well. They help you out with the speed, what the tempo is. You’re just trying to learn. As we keep going, obviously, it’ll get better.”
One of the reasons the Texans drafted Scharping in the second round was his intellect.
Signed to a $5.068 million contract that includes a $1.705 million signing bonus, the 55th overall pick of the draft was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy for his academic and football accomplishments.
Scharping is also building a reputation for having a strong work ethic. That’s something Howard has observed as a teammate and witnessed going back to their time together at the Senior Bowl all-star game and NFL scouting combine.
“To know Max is to love him and appreciate him as a teammate,” Howard said. “We’re actually roommates where we’re staying at right now. Practicing each and every day, he’s helped me become better.
“One thing about Max, he’s going to come out every day and compete and it makes me want to compete harder and compete at a high level.”
Howard and Scharping have provided a resource for each other to tap into as they both learn the ropes about the NFL. Having each other to talk with about the process has been invaluable.
“It’s definitely pretty helpful to have someone like that with you,” Scharping said. “You can bounce ideas off each other. We were playing next to each other [in practice] so we were helping each other out with communication and stuff like that. It’s good when you have another guy that you can talk to, rely on, learn things as we go.”
The Texans like Scharping’s positional flexibility as a possible guard or tackle candidate, and his ability to learn quickly.
At 6-6, 322 pounds, Scharping is a natural tackle who has to work to keep his shoulder pads low enough to create leverage as a taller lineman.
“Everything just kind of happens quicker inside,” Scharping said. “You don’t have as much space as you do at tackle. Everything just happens a little bit faster..That’s definitely on your mind with guys in there that are obviously really strong. So, you have to have good pad level, good leverage on them. It is on your mind a lot.”
Now, Scharping is starting from scratch in the NFL as he competes with veteran Seantrel Henderson at right tackle.
Scharping is far from starstruck as he lines up against famous NFL defenders. He has too much work to do to get sidetracked.
“You just try to go into every play and do your best,” Scharping said. “You can’t be thinking about other things during that play. What matters is what’s going on right then. You just have to try and block all of that out and just play to the best of your ability on that play.”