When Keith Mumphery got the phone call summoning him to the Texans' offices at NRG Stadium two years ago, the former Michigan State receiver wasn't surprised about the reason for the meeting.
Former Texans general manager Rick Smith explained simply and quickly to Mumphery that the team was releasing him from the roster, effective immediately.
This decision to cut ties with Mumphery was in the wake of a sexual assault allegation against him from a female student and an ensuing police investigation that didn't result in Mumphery being charged with a crime by prosecutors.
The Texans moved on from Mumphery after learning he had been expelled from a postgraduate program at Michigan State and banned from its campus under a violation of the university's relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy.
Losing his dream job with an NFL team was the fallout for Mumphery, but that wasn't the end of the story.
Fast forward two years later and Mumphery hopes to relaunch his NFL career now that the legal episode is behind him. Mumphery recently settled his federal lawsuit against Michigan State that was filed a year ago by Title IX attorney Andrew T. Miltenberg, stemming from his dismissal from the school.
Mumphery received an undisclosed financial settlement from the university, according to sources not authorized to speak publicly.
Mumphery alleged that the university violated his rights to due process by failing to inform him that the university had reopened the case and, consequently, ruined his NFL career. The woman who accused Mumphery also reached a settlement in her separate lawsuit against Michigan State.
"It's all love for the Texans," Mumphery said in a telephone interview in his first comments since the lawsuit was resolved. "I understand why they released me, it was bad PR for them at that time. They gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I understand the NFL is a business. I appreciate the opportunity they gave me.
"It's something I always dreamed of as a little kid. I thank them for the opportunity. They saw something in me. I was the first person from my hometown to go to the NFL. Now, it's about getting a second chance."
For Mumphery, 26, a native of Vienna, Ga., now training in Dallas, making it back to the NFL after being drafted in the fifth round by the Texans in 2015 won't be an easy undertaking.
"It's go-time now," Mumphery said. "It's time to get back to the dream. I've been waiting on this opportunity and I'm excited. I had some good days and some bad days. I learned a lot. I became stronger mentally and God kept my mind right. I was still able to focus and keep the dream alive.
"I couldn't let it go. My faith grew. My dream got a lot bigger. I've got a different drive now. I'm hungrier. God was showing me all my labor was to inspire kids."
The woman and Mumphery initially met through Tinder, an online dating site. She told university police on March 17, 2015 that the Spartans football player sexually assaulted her in her dorm room. Mumphery was expelled from the postgraduate program one year later.
There were conflicting accounts about the encounter from the woman and Mumphery, including who was the aggressor, in police reports. No criminal charges were ever filed as Mumphery told investigators that the woman attempted to seduce him and that he stopped the encounter when she refused to have him wear a condom.
The woman alleged in her lawsuit that she was extremely inebriated and in no condition to consent to have sex. Mumphery disputed that assertion.
After the police investigation ended, the Michigan State Title IX office opened the case and later cleared Mumphery.
The woman appealed and the case was reopened. Mumphery wasn't aware of the appeal after the university emailed him at an address he had stopped using. During the appeal, Mumphery was found responsible for a violation of the university's policy for relationship violence and sexual misconduct.
In his lawsuit, Mumphery alleged that the university failed to give him proper notice of an appeal and new investigation prior to expelling him from the graduate program and banning him from campus until 2019.
"My theory is the school felt a tremendous amount of pressure due to the Larry Nassar case, among other things, when they reopened Keith's case," said Miltenberg, Mumphery's New York-based attorney. "It wasn't hard to find Keith. He was playing for the Texans. He was a well-known person around campus for four years. They reopen the case. He never gets notice about it. He finds out about it at an alumni golf opening where he's informed that he's been expelled and banned from campus. Once the Texans found out about it, he's out of a job. They called him in after the news broke that he was expelled and said basically, 'We can't have this type of bad publicity.' Now, the report and sanctions under Title IX have been set aside. Keith is very hurt by how he was treated.
"This is a case I personally wanted to take to trial because it was so outrageous and he would be a great guy to have in a witness chair. I think he was innocent. He became a sacrificial lamb because of the Larry Nassar issue so they can, 'Look how tough we are,' by going after a guy playing in the NFL and retroactively expelling him. He had a decision: to hold out for a lot of money or try to get back to the NFL. That's his dream. As a lawyer who's been practicing for 30 years, this is one of the feel-good moments you savor. I'm praying he makes a team. He deserves a real chance after two prime years of his career were taken away from him."
Before this legal situation unfolded, Mumphery had built a reputation at Michigan State as a hard-working athlete and an honor roll student who was active in charitable efforts.
Mumphery caught 24 passes for 198 yards in two seasons for the Texans prior to being released. He had 618 return yards, averaging 7.8 yards per punt return and 24.1 yards per kickoff return as a rookie.
When Mumphery was playing for the Texans, coach Bill O'Brien praised his "really good daily approach, consistent, hard-working player."
Mumphery caught 88 passes for 1,348 yards and seven touchdowns as a three-year starter at Michigan State. He caught 26 passes for 495 yards and three touchdowns in his final season for the Spartans, averaging 19 yards per reception. He also rushed for 85 yards and a score.
"He's a very intelligent, intuitive kid," former Michigan State receivers coach Terrence Samuel told The Chronicle after the Texans drafted Mumphery. "He refuses to be outworked. He was very raw when he got here, but he worked on every negative until he turned them into positives. We nicknamed him 'Mayhem' because of how he finished every route."
The investigation into the sexual assault allegations began nearly a month prior to the Texans drafting Mumphery.
Mumphery insists that he is deserving of a second chance and is not a character risk to bring into an NFL locker room.
"I'm a God-fearing man, I'm real," he said. "I'm the same guy every day. I've got a giving heart. I won't let them down. I will come in and use all of these God-given talents. I'm going to come in and compete and catch on fast. I will learn your playbook quickly. I'm a bright individual. I'm going to come in and work hard every day. I've always been a high-character guy who wanted to set a great example for kids. I was once a kid who needed a little hope.
"I'm very humble right now. I appreciate what has happened. It has unlocked something inside me. I didn't know I was this strong of an individual. All the credit goes to God. I'm just a vessel waiting to be used."
Mumphery grew up in a small town with one stoplight, a few gas stations and a Piggly Wiggly. There were 64 students in his graduating class and just 26 people on the varsity football team.
"I grew up in a trailer," Mumphery said. "We didn't have much. For me to live my dream and for me to come from where I come from, I've been blessed tremendously. It's been a trying time. I wouldn't wish it on nobody. I credit God for seeing me through it all."
Mumphery thanked his lawyer, his agent, William Farah, his mother, his girlfriend and his grandmother for sticking by him.
"They are all tremendous people," Mumphery said. "They really believed in me and encouraged me. They've inspired me. Where I'm from, there aren't a whole lot of role models. It's hard to dream where I come from."
Mumphery said he has exercised patience and continued to work diligently as he seeks another shot at the NFL.
"My body is young," Mumphery said. "I don't drink or smoke. I eat healthy. I have a 22-year-old's body. I'm leaner and I have more mobility. I'm hungry now. I'm a lot better physically and athletically. I'm not the same me. I'm 100 times better.
"It's not that tough. I had a decision to make: to be mad or to continue my dream. My dream was to go forward and be who God created me to be. At the end of the day, I just feel like I grew. When I get another opportunity, I'll be ready. It's going to be a lot different."