'Wow. Who is that?': C.J. Stroud's youth coach recognized Texans quarterback's star potential

Greg Bailey Image
Monday, May 22, 2023
C.J. Stroud's youth coach recognized Texans quarterback's potential
C.J. Stroud's youth coach Tojo Munford recognized the Texans quarterback's star potential since he was 7 years old on the practice field.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- C.J. Stroud was seven years old when he walked onto the practice field in California's Inland Empire for the first time.

"I seen a little kid down there just throwing passes, and I'm like, 'Wow.' I walked down there and said, 'Who is that?'" Veteran youth coach Tojo Munford said, who saw enough in a few seconds to know it was time to switch teams.

From now on, Munford would coach the future Texans quarterback. "I'm like, 'I ain't never seen a little dude throw the ball like you. We might have something here,'" Munford recalled.

Munford built the Alta Loma Warriors around the 7-year-old who wore the same #7 he made famous at Ohio State.

That's also the same number Stroud will wear in his rookie season with the Texans.

RELATED: Texans owner says he didn't force team to pick C.J. Stroud

Under Munford's coaching, Stroud quickly grew into a force. "He was nine, throwing 40-yard bombs... I mean, that's a long pass, and I've got the coaches from the other teams saying, 'Tojo, where'd you get that kid from?' I'm like, 'I don't know. He just showed up,'" Munford said.

Munford quickly recognized Stroud was talented and a great kid. But he also told his star he would coach him hard. That was exactly what Stroud wanted.

Season after season for five years, Munford yelled and pushed his most talented player, and Stroud kept coming back.

"'You back for some more?' And he's like, 'Yep.' I'm like, 'Dude, all we do is go at it.' And he's like, 'Yeah, but you're my favorite coach.' And I'm like, 'Why?' I'm like, 'Alright. Let's get to work,'" Munford said.

Munford remembers that Stroud hated to lose. "When you lose a game, he'd sit over there with his head down like the world came to an end," he said.

SEE ALSO: Texans draft C.J. Stroud at No. 2, then trade up for Will Anderson Jr.

That didn't happen often. With Stroud leading the way, the Warriors dominated the competition. Munford kept on pushing his quarterback, but the coach also received an occasional warning from Stroud's mom. "She's like, 'Coach.' I'm like, 'Kim, I didn't even say nothing.' She's like, 'Don't be yelling at my baby like that.'"

Years later, Munford appreciates those moments and all the great times with Stroud and his family more than ever.

He's watched C.J. emerge as a star at Ohio State, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and the #2 pick in the NFL Draft.

He says the Texans got a winner in their new quarterback.

"He just seems like the same kid from when he was 11 and 12," Munford said. "He didn't change. I think Houston... I think they got the best of the deal here."

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