The “rookie” —  a term used to describe a professional in their first year — can be accurately applied to many young athletes coming out of college hoping to have a long career. For the Houston Texans rookie quarterback, CJ Stroud, a more appropriate term would be “MVP” with how he has been lighting up the NFL in the early start of his career.

Drafted second overall in the 2023 NFL draft out of Ohio State University, Stroud was selected to ultimately become the cornerstone of the Texans franchise after a stellar collegiate career. With DeMeco Ryans as a new head coach and a very young roster, Stroud and the Texans were viewed as a developmental project with hopes to compete for a championship in the future. 

However, a projected uncompetitive season turned into one with playoff aspirations. After starting the season with a tough 0-2 record, Stroud led the Texans to 6 wins out of their past 8. Within these games, Stroud rallied his team and had phenomenal comebacks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Against the Buccaneers specifically, Stroud threw for a rookie-record 470 yards, along with 5 touchdowns to seal the game. These two games solidified Stroud as a bonafide elite quarterback with the tools to compete with the best the NFL has to offer. 

The Texans currently sit in 2nd place in their division with a 6-4 record, only one game shy of their division leader, the Jacksonville Jaguars. 10 games into the season, Stroud has thrown for a remarkable 2962 yards, with a 17:5 touchdown to interception ratio. 

In addition to his superb play on the field, Stroud has made headlines by raising awareness for criminal justice reform. After the comeback win against the Buccaneers, Stroud took the opportunity to use his newfound spotlight to address the need for prison reform. For Stroud, this is an issue that affects him personally, as his father, Coleridge Stroud III, was sentenced in 2016 to 38 years to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to carjacking, kidnapping, and robbery for a drug-related incident. 

At this press conference, Stroud openly stated, “Our criminal justice system isn’t right, and it’s something that I need to probably be a little more vocal about because what he’s going through is not right,” in reference to his father. He also added in his statement, “it’s not just my dad’s situation, but the whole criminal justice system is corrupt. ” Finally, Stroud referenced prison conditions by saying, “Some of the prisons have rats, roaches and things like that. Don’t get me wrong – criminals, they should do their time, but they’re humans, know what I mean? I just want to shine a light on that really quickly.”

While Stroud’s early success positions him nicely to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, being in consideration for the Most Valuable Player award merits a feat for a rookie that is virtually unheard of. Only one rookie in the history of the NFL has received the MVP: running back Jim Brown in 1957. If Stroud were to continue his successful campaign, he would be only the second rookie ever to do so. Despite his statistical success, Stroud must continue to win and lead the Texans to the playoffs to have a viable shot at winning the award. In recent years, the MVP has mostly been a quarterback award — specifically to one whose team is one of the top seeds in the playoffs. Thus, for Stroud to truly achieve one of the highest honors in the sport of football, winning is necessary as well.

While being in the running for MVP  as a rookie is a significant achievement, Stroud has only 7 more games left in the season to turn these talks into reality. Even if he falls short of making history, there is one thing the NFL world knows for certain – Stroud is the real deal for many more years to come. If not this year, it’s only a matter of time before his name will be placed on the MVP award.