INDIANAPOLIS — Josh McNary knows a thing or two about the city of Houston.
A native Houstonian, McNary was an all-district selection at Clear Lake High School, where he played all over the field for the Falcons' defense.
So as the Indianapolis Colts get set to take on the Houston Texans on Sunday in an early-season battle for the AFC South Division lead, McNary knows perhaps better than anyone that the NRG Stadium crowd will try to make its presence known early and often.
"It's always just a shootout," McNary said this week of the Colts-Texans rivalry. "It always comes down to the final seconds of the game. So that keeps the fans engaged and trying to cause as much of a ruckus to us as possible, so I definitely hold it up there as one of the loudest, most intense game experiences that I play in."
McNary has played in two games in Houston in his professional career — in 2014 and 2015 with the Colts — but at those junctures wasn't a major factor for the Indianapolis defense, as his role was mostly relegated to special teams.
This year is a little different for the linebacker out of Army, who is coming off his first start of the season at the WILL linebacker position.
After playing in parts of the past three seasons as a reserve and occasional spot starter, McNary said he "takes a lot of confidence" in the fact that the Colts' coaching staff brought him back onto the 53-man roster this season with a bigger role in the team's defense.
"I feel like maybe they think that I've proven myself and I deserve to be in the position that I am," said McNary, who has nine total tackles on defense and one special teams tackle so far through five weeks. "It comes from three-plus years of hard work under their guidance and supervision. So I think they've been able to see me develop, and they've had the closest eye on me and my progress all this time. So if anybody knows what I'm about as a player, it's the team."
McNary's increased role defensively is perhaps no coincidence. As he gets more and more reps — and more and more experience — he says he's gotten increasingly comfortable playing in open space.
"Just finding out where I fit within the scheme. Knowing exactly where everyone is around me, what their roles are and how I can fill any voids in the defense," McNary said when asked what he's improved upon the most. "So communicating and getting familiar with the players around you, and the ones you're working with, whether it's a combination of coverages or your run fits and things, it helps tremendously, because it's truly a team game, and everybody has to be on one cohesive mindset."
His development continues on Sunday, when he'll get the chance to show what he's made of in front of several family members and friends.
While McNary always goes 100 percent on the field, he said Sunday's game will have a little extra meaning attached to it.
"I'm really looking forward to playing in front of those loved ones that I have out there," he said. "You always look to shine a little bit brighter when you get the chance, just to make them a little bit more proud, and give them something to cheer for."