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Houston Texans

Cushing ready for more


Linebacker Brian Cushing is building on the elite speed and strength he developed at USC.

Linebacker Brian Cushing chose to attend the University of Southern California because he wanted to become a big-time linebacker in the NFL. He wanted to learn from one of the top college position coaches in Ken Norton, Jr., a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, and train under an elite strength and conditioning department.

"I've always wanted to be the best," Cushing said. "I went to USC with the expectations and hopes that by the time I left I could be the best USC linebacker ever. That's something important to me. It's a great linebacker family. You see how many guys come out of there. It's just special.

"I was a big fan growing up of watching Ken Norton play. I was fortunate enough that he was also my linebackers coach at USC. Just being able to watch him play and then when I actually got to USC and just watched him coach, I saw where all of his accolades and everything came from. That guy was a warrior on and off the field. He taught me how to become the linebacker that I am."

{QUOTE}The Texans drafted Cushing with the 15th overall pick because they believe he can develop into an elite pro defender. They also think that development will come sooner rather than later, thanks in part to the training he went through in college.

USC head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle put Cushing through a movement-focused workout program to advance his athleticism and an already highly developed strength level.

"Our development was changing him from a weight lifter into a better athlete than he was," Carlisle said. "When he came out of high school out of Bergen Catholic, he was a tremendous athlete coming in. I think he played every position there was on the field during his time in high school. But when he got here, there were things that we could make better and he was very focused and had a great desire to improve on those things.

"That's the great thing about Brian is he's a great student. He did everything he had been taught all the way along. He understands. He's just not an ironhead. I think his demeanor and the way he carries himself, people think he's just an ironhead. He's not. He's very focused and really understands how to prepare himself, not only in the weight room but in his movement and especially in his nutrition. When you start putting that together, you really get something special. And that's what Brian is. He's a very special young man."

Cushing isn't the only former Trojan on the Texans' roster who benefitted from Carlisle's program. This offseason, the team signed free agent defensive tackle Shaun Cody, a first-team All-American at USC.

"You'll also notice that kind of drive and focus coming from Shaun," Carlisle said. "It's too difficult to say, 'Well, this guy works harder,' because if you look at the number of kids that we have in the NFL that are very special, they all come in different sizes and shapes. But the thing that ties them together is their desire to maximize their potential.

"They are tremendous kids. They work their butts off every day and they came out of a program that they excelled in. And I'm going to use the term again – they maximized their potential. Each of those kids were better when they left here than when they got here."

And that's exactly what the Texans need to maximize their potential in 2009.

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