Updated: Jun 7
At first glance, one can easily mistake USC linebacker John Houston Jr. as a wide receiver. At 6'3, he carries a long, lean, frame at just a little under 220 lbs. Yet in today's NFL, linebackers are built differently as they once were in the 1990s or early 2000s.
During his collegiate career, Houston Jr. proved that even with his lean frame, he can still be highly productive. In his redshirt senior year, he posted 104 total tackles, seven of them for loss; along with 2.5 sacks and three passes defended.
Last season, Houston Jr. displayed his versatility, as he played in multiple spots such as weakside and at edge where he showed his ability to get pressure in the backfield.
What has defined Houston Jr. throughout his career has been athleticism. Pro Football Network analyst Tony Pauline, noted about his speed and range in a 2018 scouting report.
"He’s a fast, sideline-to-sideline linebacker who covers a lot of area and shows terrific skill in pursuit as well as coverage," he detailed in his report.
That particular season, Houston Jr. experienced a drop in production due to numerous injuries. Despite some small setbacks, he still finished with 67 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and five passes defended. Throughout his career with USC, Houston Jr. did not receive many accolades, but proved to be one, if not the most essential component of the Trojans' defensive unit.
With today's game predicated on space and speed, Houston Jr. has the skill set that should allow him to be productive. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are ailing for depth at the middle linebacker position, Houston Jr.'s may never have another opportunity to shine, as the one given to him.