NFL DRAFT: Texans bolster defense with young DT Okoye Print
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Saturday, 28 April 2007 13:37
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 HOUSTON (AP) -A year after stunning everybody with their first-round pick, the Houston Texans added another defensive lineman to play with Mario Williams - and a really young one at that.
Amobi Okoye, the 19-year-old defensive tackle from Louisville, was taken 10th overall Saturday by the Texans. Okoye is the youngest player taken in the first round since the merger in 1967,
``He was our top-rated defensive player on the board,'' Texans general manager Rick Smith said. ``For him to be there at the 10th pick was a pleasant surprise for us.''
Houston had the first overall selection last year and passed on running back Reggie Bush to take Williams and try to improve a weak pass rush. It didn't help much. Houston was 27th in the NFL in sacks last season. Smith and coach Gary Kubiak feel Okoye can help.
``It's very hard to find inside players in the National Football League that can rush the passer and this kid can do that,'' Kubiak said.
The Texans moved down from No. 8 to 10th and gave up this year's second round pick in the trade that brought quarterback Matt Schaub from Atlanta.
Fans in Houston, who booed when the Texans passed on Bush and Vince Young in favor of Williams last year, were much happier this time around, with the crowd of almost 5,000 at the stadium cheering loudly for Okoye.
The Texans believe Okoye's youth will work to his advantage in the NFL. The 6-foot-1, 300 pound player entered college at 16 and won't turn 20 until June 10.
``You just know that there's an enormous amount of growth potential that he has,'' Smith said. ``He's already a powerful and quick kid, so I think that that's a big advantage and I think he's going to continue to grow and develop. I think we've got ourselves a good football player for a long time.''
Okoye insists being the youngest person at each level of his football career has never been a problem.
``It's always just been me,'' he said. ``I never looked at it like everybody else looked at it. I always looked at it as just this is me, this is my grade, this is what I'm supposed to be doing.''
Okoye, who graduated in 3 1/2 years with a degree in psychology, earned unanimous All-Big East Conference first-team honors in 2006 after recording a career-high 58 tackles and eight sacks with three fumbles.
The Texans are hoping the addition will aid the development of Williams, who started every game as a rookie, but failed to show the kind of dominance fans expected from a No. 1 overall pick as he struggled with plantar fasciitis in his right foot for much of the season. Houston is also counting on continued production from linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the linebacker whose 156 total tackles in 2006 were the most by a rookie in the last 20 years.
``It was a great pick to me,'' Williams said. ``I can use all the help I can get.''
Williams was so high on Okoye that he even lobbied for Houston to choose him, text messaging defensive line coach Jethro Franklin in the minutes leading up to the pick.
``Whenever we were at like the 9th pick ... I texted him and said his name like three times and they picked him,'' Williams said. ``So that was a good thing.''
Okoye said he's also looking forward to playing with Williams.
``It's going to be a fun experience,'' Okoye said. ``I hope he's as excited as I am. I can't wait to go down there and meet the team who I'll be playing with.''
Kubiak believes adding Okoye ``made the whole defense better'' and that it will be especially beneficial to Williams.
``When you've got an end on your team people can turn their protections a certain way to try to help and double if you only have that player,'' Kubiak said. ``So by having an inside guy to go with him to rush the passer, it definitely levels the playing field.''
 

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