Former BYU wide receiver Terenn Houk returned to the practice field of his alma mater on Tuesday, as the prospective Chicago Bears rookie sought help from coach Steve Clark in transitioning to his new position at tight end.
Houk, a slot receiver in college who never played a down as a traditional tight end, enthralled NFL coaches with his size and pass-catching tight abilities after being invited to compete at Chicago’s rookie minicamp. However, he was told he would need to improve his run blocking to have a chance at making the team.
Not knowing much about the intricacies of playing with one hand down by the offensive line, Houk decided to enlist the aid of BYU’s new tight ends coach.
“I didn’t really know anybody that could (help) other than the coaches that were here, but they all left,” Houk said. “So then I called my agent and I was like, ‘Hey … do you know if you could maybe work something out with BYU? Because I need to learn this stuff — like now.’ So he just got on the phone, Coach Clark was very cooperative, more than willing to work with me, and then that’s just how (this) all started.”
Clark began Houk’s one-on-one training with an NFL film session that showcased several blocking concepts and techniques in the run game. Instruction then shifted to the practice field, where Houk walked through a variety of game situations with Clark positioned as a defender.
“We put on some run blocking, just some basic base blocking,” Clark said. “We worked on some zone combinations, zone individual blocks, zone combination blocks, hand placement and aiming points, steps, and talked a little bit about scheme: understanding the big picture of what’s trying to get accomplished in the run game, and that stuff.”
Houk was one of the main targets in BYU’s passing attack over the last two seasons, hauling in 58 receptions for 731 yards and four touchdowns as a slot receiver. Houk chose to participate in his football pro day as a tight end, believing his skill set was more suitable for that position.
“I knew that I ‘m not a 4.4 (or) 4.3 kind of quick dude,” Houk said. “Doing what we worked with Coach Clark — a lot of tight end drills, working off of getting out of a two-point stance, working on blocking, working on schemes — stuff like that is much easier to develop and coach (rather) than ‘Hey get faster, get that 4.4 speed.'”
Houk wasn’t drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft but was invited to try out at the rookie minicamp of the Bears and San Francisco 49ers. Chicago’s staff expressed the most interest in Houk, but they also expected all rookie tight ends to already have a basic grasp and understanding of the position.
“It was kind of scary, to be honest,” Houk said. “It was like, ‘This is my one chance, this is my one shot and I have to do great,’ but at the same time I don’t know what I’m doing at all, so it was really like a do-or-die situation where everything the coach told me, I had to learn in that instant.”
Houk will put in another day’s work with Clark on Wednesday, June 1; two weeks before the Bears hold a mandatory minicamp on June 14-16.
“I feel like at the minicamp I kind of had to learn things from a broad point of view, like I just had to pick up concepts and then kind of teach myself how to do the techniques,” Houk said. “Whereas with Coach Clark, he taught me the little stuff: hand placement, where my steps can be, what I’m actually doing the whole entire play, then that way, once I’m actually in a practice or I’m actually going against a live dude, those little things can actually help me.”