Cushing resting, back in school in offseason


Texans Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Cushing is back in school at USC, taking his final two classes to finish a bachelor's degree in sociology.

The first month of Brian Cushing's first full NFL offseason was a time to rest, but it wasn't a total vacation.

It was the first time in more than a year, dating back to before his senior season at USC, that Cushing got to take a break from football. After playing through knee, foot and shoulder injuries along with fractured ribs and a broken pinky finger in 2009, Cushing sat out of the 2010 Pro Bowl in early February and has been getting some welcomed relaxation in his time away from the field.

"It's been nice, the time off and the healing process, just resting the body and recuperating," Cushing said. "The biggest thing is my health and just getting ready for next season."

Cushing also used the start of the offseason to do something else he hadn't done in more than a year: Sit in a classroom. The 2009 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is back in school at USC, taking his final two classes to finish a bachelor's degree in sociology. Cushing is on track to graduate this semester and walk in the school's commencement ceremony in Los Angeles in May.

"It's definitely different now, but it's been a real good time and a good opportunity to be out there and be training and taking class," he said. "I'm so close to the degree, so I figured I should just knock it out now.

{QUOTE}"I know there's life after football, and my education is one of the things I need to just make myself more of a well-rounded person. That's what's most important."

Surprisingly, the 2009 second-team All-Pro who was a three-time All-Pac 10 selection at USC said that he isn't being recognized by many people on campus.

"You know, not as much as I thought I might," Cushing said. "I think a lot has to do with the long hair being cut. I'm kind of incognito, going to class real quietly, sitting in the back and just taking care of business."

In a couple of weeks' time – just before midterms at USC – Cushing plans to resume his regular training schedule. The ultra-competitive linebacker said that even though he had 133 tackles, four interceptions, four sacks and a safety as a rookie, he still has room to improve in 2010.

"Just keep learning," Cushing said of his personal goals. "There's no ceiling for that. There's no certain amount where you can ever learn enough, and this is coming from guys who have played eight, nine years at linebacker telling me this, to continue the process of learning and anticipating plays and just being a smarter football player. That's what's going to take me to the next level."

Cushing was in South Florida for the 2010 Pro Bowl and for part of Super Bowl week. Accustomed to playing in high-stakes BCS bowl games at USC, he said it was difficult to have to sit by and watch this year as other teams competed in the playoffs.

As he completes his education and begins to look toward his second NFL season, which is when many players make their most significant improvements, Cushing said that he hopes to at least match his rookie production if not top it in the years to come.

"There's no question I want to do the same thing next year," Cushing said. "I want to continue to excel in my game. But most importantly, I want us to be a playoff team. I think that's the biggest thing. Having the first winning season in Houston this year and the kind of potential we're bringing back and the talent we have, we're just really excited for next year."

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