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Houston Texans

Bulman a reluctant underdog


Defensive end Tim Bulman is coming off his best season as a pro in 2008 when he had four sacks.

Tim Bulman is popular with his Texans teammates and the fans. Everyone loves an underdog story of a player overcoming big odds to earn a spot on an NFL roster.

Bulman goes along with the story line only to get along. It's true he started his pro career as an undrafted free agent and bounced around like a rubber ball on and off the rosters of Arizona and the Texans until last season.

He'll play the Rocky Balboa part. He just doesn't like it.

"I've never looked at myself as a sub-par player, but every time I read something in the paper, I'll read through it and I see, 'Yeah, but he's an undrafted guy and he was a practice squad guy,'" Bulman said. "I know they have to put that before it because that's just where I've come from in this league.

{QUOTE}"I know they are saying, 'Imagine if they put a first-round guy at that position, what would he have done?' I read stuff like that and that's what fires me up."

Being anointed in the draft doesn't last past draft day for coaches.

"The funny thing is some guys get stuck with that, if they weren't drafted they weren't any good," defensive line coach Bill Kollar said. "If they were drafted, they are the greatest ever.

"Really what happens, you get drafted from how you did in college or what kind of potential you have. Once you get here, it depends on how you play. They could care less of how you got drafted or where you played, free agent or whatever.

"You have to take it as, 'I'm here and I'm better than any of these guys and I've got to go out and show it.'"

Bulman didn't get a call on draft day 2006. He knew then it would be tough. The way he's continued to bob up after each knock down has made him a fan favorite.

"I know the day I didn't get drafted I'd be behind the 8-ball," Bulman said. "People relate to that in the sense that they feel they are behind the 8-ball every day. No one is giving them any freebies just like me. I'm not getting any handouts. I'm working for everything I've got and people out there are working to pay their bills and to make sure they get through this time economically.

"That could be one reason they relate to me. Everyone likes a little feel-good story. As long as I'm still playing football, I'm proud to provide that story because it means things are still going well and still getting good."

Bulman got his shot last season with the Texans. He made the 53-man roster and stayed there the entire season. The breakthrough came just in time. Bulman set a three-year deadline for making an NFL roster.

"Last season was that make-or-break mindset," Bulman said. "I knew I'd played in a hand full of games, like 10 or 12. I'd been on the practice squads off and on. I just had to make a team out of camp last year. That was my main goal. After that happened, my goal was to get on the field. I didn't get that chance until week three or four and I just tried to take advantage of the opportunities they gave me."

Bulman speaks with emotion about the moment last season when he got his first NFL sack against Detroit.

"In that Detroit game, it felt like I lifted weights off my back when I got my first sack," he said. "That for me was really emotional. I felt like at that moment, man, it's been three years since I've played and been thought of as a player. I look over and everyone is happy. That was a great feeling. I just want to try to replicate that again and again."

Defensive coordinator Frank Bush celebrated Bulman's first sack from the sidelines last season.

"I've seen him come out of Boston College undrafted, just trying to make it and be one of the guys," Bush said. "Then, to get a sack in a big game, I was really happy. It shows a lot of hard work pays off.

"You want more examples like that. Even the kids with talent, they'll have to work even harder."

Bulman plans to keep his Boston College degree on the shelf for as long as he can continue contributing. He had four sacks last season, second on the team to Mario Williams. He's pared down to 275 to get more speed at defensive end.

"I did some good things (last year), but I almost feel there's more pressure on me this season because I've been there and I've done it," Bulman said. "I've played a significant amount of games and produced. I felt a part of the team. I hadn't felt like that since college.

"You know you're respected by your teammates, but also (it feels good) getting a little love from your friends watching the game and your family and the fans."

Bulman has another big challenge this season. The Texans wanted desperately to improve their pass rush, so they signed Antonio Smith and drafted Connor Barwin from Cincinnati in the second round in April.

"I feel it's nothing I haven't seen," he said. "Every time I think I've had a little nut carved out for me and feel I've paved a little way, something like that always happens.

"That's the nature of the NFL. If they think they can get someone that might be better than you, why wouldn't they get him? It's your job to prove that you're still valuable or better, or that you have something to offer that others can't. That's how it is in the real world."

Bulman thinks he has a defensive lineman's mentality.

"I try to keep it light, but sometimes I get in that mode where I have a little nastiness," Bulman said. "Sometimes it comes out and all D-linemen need that little edge. Like, you say something the wrong way or you hold them a little too long.

"It's just the bite in the dog."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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