John Metchie III Makes NFL Debut After Long Recovery From Torn ACL and Leukemia Diagnosis

652 days. That’s how long it had been since John Metchie III played in a meaningful football game. The 6-foot-0, 195-pound wide receiver made his long-awaited NFL debut this past weekend after tearing his ACL in 2021 and being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (cancer) after the 2022 NFL Draft.

He was inactive for Week 1 of the Houston Texans’ 2023 regular season, but made his return to the field on Sept. 17 when they hosted the Indianapolis Colts for their home opener. He only took 14 snaps (17% of the team’s offensive snaps), but he did record his first reception – a 17-yarder late in the 4th quarter.

“It was an amazing feeling. Something I thought about every day in the hospital, so it was great to be out there playing football,” he said to ESPN after the game. “It’s just a good feeling to know I had been tested and then I came through on the other side. Now, it’s just to continue to go and continue to aspire.”

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Prior to this past weekend, John Metchie III hadn’t played in a game since December 4, 2021. He was a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide at the time and they were playing in the 2021 SEC Championship Game. Unfortunately, he missed the entire second half after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). 

Despite the injury, Metchie III – who had already established himself as one of the best receivers in the FBS – decided to forego his senior year at Alabama and declared for the 2022 NFL Draft – where he was selected by the Houston Texans with No. 44 overall pick in the 2nd round. All he had to do was recover.

“Around June I should be cleared and ready to go — no restrictions. Just ready to play football and run some routes,” Metchie III said in March 2022, prior to the NFL Draft. He was on schedule to return to the field and even signed a four-year, $8 million contract with the Texans in May just weeks after the draft. 

That’s when tragedy hit again. In July 2022, he was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. A full recovery was never out of the question as he was prepared to fight his battle, but the diagnosis meant he would have to miss his entire rookie season. His mind never faltered and that NFL debut finally came. 

John Metchie III Always Knew He Was Going to Be Alright

John Metchie III was one of the most talented wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft. He was a seasoned route runner who could track the ball and run with the ball as well as any other receiver in the draft – this we knew about him. But it’s what he taught us during his leukemia battle that showed us who he really is.

“Those moments I went through and that time I went through taught me that you can have those things, but just as long as the sun comes [out] tomorrow and you’re there for it, you’re going to be all right. And you get to show up again,” he said in an interview with ESPN after making his long-awaited NFL debut.

It’s that type of mental and physical toughness that will help him succeed at the next level as he looks to make a difference in the Houston Texans’ rotation and locker room. He’s the type of player teammates can rally around and the type of player we want to see continue to take the field for many years to come. 

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“It’s not all or nothing in a sense that, like one loss, isn’t the death of you. You just have to show up, learn from your mistakes, and continue to get better,” he added. The Texans’ next game is on Sunday (Sept. 24) against the Jacksonville Jaguars – a road game that should see John Metchie III take more snaps.

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