The last time the Seahawks played the Texans, Duane Brown was playing left tackle for Houston, his first game back with the team after he held out for almost half a season.
Days after that game, Brown was traded from Houston to the Seahawks, the team he had just played against, kicking off a second chapter of what has been a very successful NFL career for the 14-year veteran. And now, for the first time since that memorable 2017 game, the Seahawks and Texans are facing each other again, which means for Brown a return trip to the city he called home for the first decade of his career.
"I'm excited about it," Brown said. "I spent 10 years there, so there's a lot of history there. It's going to be different being in that facility on the visitor's side. I'm looking forward to it though. I'm looking forward to it."
The timing of the trade made for a strange week for Brown, who recalls having Seahawks players tell him they thought he could end up joining their team soon.
"It was wild," Brown said. "Going into that game, there was some speculation about the possibility of it happening, so I think myself along with some of the guys here kind of didn't know it was going to happen but kind of thought about it. There was some conversations about it during the game. It was also an amazing game. It was one of the best games I've been a part of. Then after the game, talking to some guys, just some conversations about the potential of it happening. That was my first time playing here my whole career. My whole career, that was my first time playing in Seattle. To then get traded here a couple days later, it was wild. Very surreal feeling."
What Brown isn't expecting this to be, however, is a particularly emotional return to Houston. Almost the entire organization, players, coaches and front office, has turned over since he played there.
"There's one person there—one person, Deshaun Watson," Brown said. "Obviously, when I first left, I was still in touch with guys who were there. Then I just slowly started to see them leave. It's crazy the turnover that's happened just in this four years time. Other than that, I don't pay attention to it too much. There's a couple guys that are playing, obviously Justin Britt is a good friend of mine. He's over there. I've seen some film and things like that, but I don't pay too much attention to it."
But even if it won't be an overly emotional homecoming for Brown, his return to Houston is a good excuse to reflect upon what has been one of the best trades of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era. While the transition from Walter Jones to Russell Okung gave the Seahawks pretty continuous strong play at left tackle aside from the 2009 season, but after Okung left in free agency after the 2015 season, the Seahawks had a hard time finding the right replacement at what is one of the most important positions in football.
But then the trade for Brown happened, and since then he has started all but four games the Seahawks have played over the past four-plus seasons, and even at 36 he remains one of the best in the business at what he does. And on top of his strong play, Brown has also emerged as one of the team's strongest leaders and most respected voices, a player who leads both with his work ethic and his words.
"He's such a great leader because he works so hard and takes care of himself so well," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's a guy that's always working. He's always working out. He's always on it. Tougher than nails about coming back from anything—he's had nicks and all that over the years, and he always gets back with a great attitude. We've learned how to work with him to make sure that he's at his best. He's had a really good run this year, and hopefully we can keep it going through the rest of the season. But his voice is what's really powerful. When he talks to the players, when he speaks, everybody is listening, and he's firm about his thoughts, and he's competitive in games, and he moves guys in the games by the things he says at times and stuff, so he's everything you're looking for."
And as good as the trade has been for the Seahawks, it has also been a great fit for Brown.
"It's been amazing, everything I could hope for," he said. "I told some guys, before I got here, I had known some guys on the team, and I just talked about the perception of outside looking in of the team and the brotherhood. The locker room, it just looked like the ideal brotherhood that you would want on a team. When I got here, that was everything that I saw and everything I've experienced. It's been amazing. I'm nothing but grateful for my time here."