Antonio Smith is back on the ranch.
One of the most colorful and productive Texans in franchise history, the Oklahoma native is back home these days after retiring in 2017. And Smith is busy.
"Raising my babies," Smith said in a recent interview. "My two children, and cattle, horses and rabbits."
Smith, who spent 13 seasons in the NFL, began his career with the Cardinals in 2004. After helping Arizona reach the Super Bowl in 2008, he signed with the Texans in free agency in 2009. Right away, he knew he belonged.
"I remember the feeling of being desired," Smith said. "The first people I met were Travis Johnson and then Andre Johnson. Right off right off the bat, we hit it off."
Smith was a key component of the Texans defense from that first season in Houston through 2013. In 2011, he finished with 6.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl selection, and Houston made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The 2011 Texans defense allowed the second-fewest yards in the NFL, and was fourth in the League in points allowed.
"In my opinion, I felt like we were the best defense in the league," Smith said. "There were some weeks we were competing for number one, number two. But the way I felt about our team was, healthy, we were unstoppable. Both those years, we were just fighting injuries."
Smith had many nicknames during his tenure in Houston, one of which was the "Ninja Assassin". After sacks, he'd celebrate by unsheathing and swinging a pretend samurai sword.
"I got to be me," Smith said. "That's who I am. We wanted to create something that can give us some excitement, so we went home and created some things."
Smith moved on to the Raiders in 2014, and then won a Super Bowl ring with the Broncos the next season. He came back for a 13-game run in Houston to close out his career in 2016. That second stint with the Texans was a fun one for Smith, albeit under different circumstances.
"I felt like it was the red carpet," Smith said of his reception back. "My number (94) was waiting on me. My locker was waiting on me. The environment was a little bit different, but I enjoyed it. It was absolutely fun."
Smith helped the Texans make the playoffs, and Houston advanced to the Divisional Round. When the season ended, he called it quits.
But Smith said he still keeps in daily contact on a group text thread with teammates like Brian Cushing, Shaun Cody, Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed, Jesse Nading and Daryl Sharpton. He chuckled when he described that regular communication chain.
"I tell you what: it's comedy," Smith said. "They need to make a reality show just with these guys."
In six years with the Texans, Smith started 78 games, and appeared in 14 others. He rang up 98 quarterback hits in that span, along with 27.5 sacks, 38 tackles for loss seven forced fumbles.