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Camp spotlight: DeMeco Ryans


When the Texans chose linebacker DeMeco Ryans with the first pick in the second round of the 2006 draft, they didn't realize what a valuable selection they had made. Ryans started every game his rookie season, led the NFL in solo tackles with 126 and was named the 2006 Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"We knew he was a good player, but was it a pleasant surprise that he was that good? Yes," Texans owner Bob McNair said. "That was a pleasant surprise because rookies typically don't play that well, and he just stepped right in right off the bat."

In his sophomore season, Ryans took ownership of the Texans' defense. He finished the year with 127 tackles and was voted a Pro Bowl starter.

"DeMeco really takes pride in his play and he takes pride in the pressure we put on him as a leader and he steps up to it," linebackers coach Johnny Holland said. "DeMeco has a unique personality and a unique way of making the people around him better. I feel like that's what leadership is all about."

What makes Ryans so special is his pure love for the game. He never wants to leave the field. As a rookie in 2006, Ryans sprained his ankle against the New England Patriots. The Texans trailed by 33 points with only a minute left in the game, and Ryans refused to go to the sidelines. Late in the 2007 season, he tore his posterior cruciate ligament and still started every game.

"He's relentless; he's like a machine," Holland said. "He'll go and wrap it up, put a little tape on it and be ready to go. He'll never complain about an injury. Very seldom will you see him in the training room. The guy's a warrior. He's always willing to take a hit for the team. If he needs to practice, he's going to practice. If he needs to take the last rep of the game, he's going to take the last rep."

{QUOTE}It's also hard to get Ryans to take a break during practice. The coaches tried resting him for extended periods during OTAs, but he would sprint back onto the field. They finally got their way during training camp when they made Ryans take off one practice a week.

"They cut my reps back some because coach (Gary) Kubiak didn't want me to get as many reps as I got during my first two years," Ryans said. "I was out there every play my first two years here. Now, he makes sure I rest my legs a little bit more because I play so many snaps."

Because he hardly misses a play during games, the 6-1, 250-pound middle linebacker was chosen this year to wear the league's new defensive transmitter, which allows a player to relay defensive calls to his team. Ryans excels at directing traffic, mainly because he spends so much time reviewing film with coaches.

"He is at a point now where he is in the coach's dome, that is how smart he is," Kubiak said. "We are very confident in his leadership in this football team. I think he senses the help he has got around him."

Ryans is excited about adding second-year pro Zac Diles to the starting lineup at strongside linebacker. Diles played primarily on special teams last season, but has shown great tackling ability in the preseason.

"I always say that Zac is one of the strongest linebackers that we have," Ryans said. "He makes some strong tackles out there for us. He did a good job. He has a lot of room for improvement, so I was just eager to sit back and watch him and see how he develops and comes into his own."

Ryans' job has been made a little bit easier with defensive tackle Amobi Okoye and defensive end Mario Williams creating more pressure from the front line.

"I was telling those guys the other day, 'I love it when you guys are in the backfield making plays, pushing the offensive line back, creating a new line of scrimmage.'" Ryans said. "It makes it so much easier on us in the back."

And when Ryans talks, everyone in the Texans' organization listens.

"He's everything that you would want," McNair said. "He was an academic All-American at Alabama for two years. He has a smile on his face all the time. He's a great teammate. He works hard. He has great ability. He never criticizes one of his other teammates. He will give them a pat on the back, and he's just a terrific leader. For people to see a young fellow come in and in the last two years perform the way he did – he has gained the respect of the veterans, too."

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