Cushing wins AP NFL Defensive Rookie of Year

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Texans linebacker Brian Cushing won the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award on Tuesday.

Brian Cushing followed DeMeco Ryans' lead on the field all season. It's only fitting that, on Tuesday, he joined Ryans as the second Texans linebacker in four seasons to win the *Associated Press *NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Cushing won the award by a landslide margin, receiving 39 of 50 votes from a nationwide panel of NFL writers and analysts. Bills safety Jairus Byrd (six), Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (three) and Redskins defensive end Brian Orakpo (two) were the other rookies to receive votes.

"It means a lot," Cushing said. "I think that it was a great rookie class, defensively and overall. The other guys had great seasons, but to win and to win like that, it's just a huge honor."

The 15th overall draft pick out of Southern California, Cushing lived up to the Texans' expectations as an immediate impact player. He led the AFC with 134 tackles, led all NFL linebackers with four interceptions and was third among rookies with five sacks. The Park Ridge, N.J., native also had 10 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a safety.

"He brought another element to our football team," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "His love for the game, his passion, his play, playing beat up, all these things, playing like a 10-year vet from the day he stepped on the field -- the players respect what he does with the game and how he goes about his business.

"We're very fortunate to have him, and we're going to have him here for a long, long time. What a year. He was exceptional."

News of the award was well-received by USC coach Pete Carroll, who was reached by e-mail on Tuesday.

"Cush's tremendous rise during his first season in the NFL has been a joy to watch," Carroll said. "He's taken his one-of-a-kind tenacity up to a new level, and we couldn't be more impressed with how he's grown and matured. He's destined for even more great things down the road. We can't wait to watch what happens from here."

Cushing missed the entire preseason with a knee injury and played through foot, rib, shoulder and hand injuries during the regular season. Despite rarely practicing over the second half of the season, he didn't miss a game and hardly missed a snap as the Texans finished with the best record in franchise history at 9-7.

{QUOTE}"I appreciate the work ethic that he showed -- even with the injuries, just battling through it and still pushing, not complaining and just out there giving it up for his team," said Ryans, who mentored Cushing throughout the season. "I admire him for that. He's a great player, and it's good to have him on my side."

Cushing and Ryans were the only linebacker teammates selected to play in the 2010 Pro Bowl, staking a claim as the best young linebacker tandem in the NFL.

Before this season, Ryans led the Texans in tackles in each of his three years in the league. Cushing edged him by 11 this season as the two combined for 257 of the Texans' 891 total tackles.

"Hopefully, we just made each other better," Cushing said. "It's a healthy competition between us, and we love playing with each other, there's no question about that. The fire, the fun we have, that's something I want for many years to come."

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at *twitter.com/NickScurfield or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at imatexan.com/profiles/Nick_Scurf/.*

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