For one week every year, offensive lineman Oday Aboushi scrubs up to assist with surgeries.
Each summer for the past few years, he's taken a trip to the third-world country to help perform cleft palate surgeries for children as part of the non-profit group IMANA (Islamic Medical Association of North America).
"My role – I thought I was going to go there and I'd be punching numbers or writing paperwork," Aboushi said in an interview with Texans Radio. "But, I was assisting IVs, scrubbing in on surgeries, and getting involved, whether it's comforting a patient or communicating with a patient. I've done it the last two years and it's great to go every year because it kind of puts things in perspective as to how good you really have it here."
It's a trip he looks forward to taking each year with his family. Each surgery takes just 45 minutes and over the course of a week, Aboushi and team performed around 180 surgeries.
"It's a grind," Aboushi said. "We're there from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at night. You get there and there's patients waiting because this is something that's for free. It's something that's donated and the money is raised. It's a very poor, third-world country so everything that's going on there is kind of limited. We go down there and we pretty much do these surgeries free of charge and there's a huge waiting list so there's no time to waste when you get down there."
It's not every day that you meet an NFL player who helps perform surgeries, is honored at the White House, and build houses for hurricane relief efforts.
That's Oday Aboushi.
A fifth-round selection (141st overall) from the 2013, Aboushi was the first player of Palestinian heritage to be drafted to the NFL. His parents emigrated from Palestine and settled in Brooklyn, where he grew up. Aboushi, the ninth of ten children, has three brothers and six sisters. He speaks Arabic, though he says he understands far more than he can communicate.
As a sophomore at Virginia, Aboushi was invited to the White House in September 2011. He, along with about a dozen other Muslim athletes including boxer Amir Khan, were honored at a reception. Aboushi is a practicing Muslim who observes the fasting month of Ramadan.
"To realize the overall view of being Muslim and playing sports and breaking that barrier was something that dinner definitely opened my eyes to," Aboushi said of his trip to the White House.
It's hard to miss the Brooklyn accent from Aboushi, who talks about football with the same passion as he does volunteerism, his faith, and, of course, his native New York. In October 2012, when the devastating Superstorm Sandy swept through the East coast, Aboushi jumped into the relief efforts without hesitation.
"I'm from New York so it was definitely near to my heart, seeing all these people's homes crashed and destroyed," Aboushi said. "It was rough for a lot of people to get back on their feet so I had a clothing drive, a food drive, as well as assisting on rebuilding homes: tiling floors, putting up frames, things of that sort."
Aboushi is rebuilding again, figuratively speaking. This time, he's starting fresh with a new team for the first time in his three-year NFL career.
Just 11 days after he was signed by the Texans, Aboushi made his first start for the team at left guard on Sunday against Tampa Bay. He was reunited with Texans offensive line coach, Mike Devlin, who drafted him to the New York Jets in 2013.
"He was my first offensive line coach and he's taught me a lot," Aboushi said. "We've kind of all kept up with him because he's done a lot for us. I knew he was in Houston and when I got the call, I was thrilled."
The Texans are pleased too.
With multiple injuries on the offensive line, Aboushi's arrival was a welcome one. He stepped in and was a part of a line that blocked for 186 yards rushing in Sunday's 19-9 win.
"I think anybody who comes in on a short week with a limited time in this offense to be able to put it together and put a game together and be part of an effective running game, it's a compliment," offensive coordinator George Godsey said Wednesday. "Just having another week with him, it'll get better, and it'll continue to get better week to week. I know he's putting the time in. He's here for quite a few hours."