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Kubiak, Smith inspire at Draft Luncheon


Linebacker DeMeco Ryans accepts the team MVP trophy at the 2008 Texans Draft Luncheon.

After turning a five-player draft into a seven-selection success, general manager Rick Smith and coach Gary Kubiak were ready to celebrate Tuesday at the 2008 Houston Texans Draft Luncheon.

They joined SportsRadio 610's Marc Vandermeer in handing out team awards and discussing the franchise's winning future before an audience of nearly 700 Texans fans.

Smith began with a draft overview where he analyzed each rookie, starting with the 26th overall pick Duane Brown.

"I think we were able to address some needs and I also think we were able to add some quality men to our football team, which is important to us," Smith said.

"It starts, of course, in the first round with the big left tackle, Duane Brown, a very athletic kid, good-sized, 6-4 and 315-pounds, a very athletic and explosive player."

Smith said the Texans got great value with their third-round acquisitions of cornerback Antwaun Molden and running back Steve Slaton, and the general manager couldn't hide his excitement when it came to fourth-round pick, linebacker Xavier Adibi.

"One of my favorite players in this whole class is a kid we took in the fourth round, Xavier Adibi from Virginia Tech," Smith said. "This kid is an instinctive and aggressive tackler and football player at the linebacker position."

Smith's rookie breakdown was a glimpse into the franchise's winning future.

{QUOTE}Kubiak then took the baton. The head coach addressed team injuries, saying that tackle Charles Spencer could possibly move inside to guard next season and that cornerback Dunta Robinson could be healthy as early as six weeks into the season.

The players' relentless attitude, Kubiak said, showed that not a single player on the team was satisfied with an 8-8 record and that the Texans wouldn't let up until they become a Super Bowl-bound team.

"We're going to celebrate when we achieve our goal, and our goal is to become a playoff football team that has a chance to win a championship some day," Kubiak said. "That's when we'll celebrate. You know, in the past couple of hours I was out watching the players run and they were not celebrating today. They were working."

Kubiak noted that signing several free agents, including cornerback Jacques Reeves and running back Chris Brown, was key to acquiring depth. The greatest additions, however, may have come in the form of two legendary coaches, assistant head coach Alex Gibbs and assistant defensive backs coach Ray Rhodes, who decided to leave retirement to help the Texans.

"Between these two coaches, they've had 10 Super Bowls, seven wins, 59 playoff games and over 450 victories in the National Football League," Kubiak said. "And it's been written that I was able to talk these two guys out of retirement. Well, I'm going to let y'all in on a little secret: These two guys called me.

"Alex called me back in December. Ray called me sometime in early January, because they wanted to become part of what's going on in the city of Houston with our football team. They like what's going on and they want to be a part of it. And both of those two guys called me and asked me if I could let a couple of old guys come and help out, and I said, 'You bet I can.'"

After Kubiak thanked the fans for their support, the players accepted team awards with linebacker DeMeco Ryans taking home MVP honors and Fred Bennett earning Rookie of the Year.

Left tackle Ephraim Salaam won the Mickey Herskowitz Award for the most media-friendly player. And he let the media know why.

"If I am not media-friendly, if I am not the voice of my teammates, then you guys just get out of control," Salaam joked. "OK? I try to keep an even keel, keep the marriage between us a good marriage. You know, divorce rates are high. I don't want us to be divorced now. As soon as y'all step out of line, then we have to divorce y'all. So that's why I try to be the liaison between you guys and the players."

Also recognized were several local student athletes who had shown remarkable leadership in academics and athletics.

A Reliant Energy representative awarded $1,000 Reliant Energy Scholarships for Champions to eight high school students. And the Touchdown Club presented their Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards.

The Festivities concluded with the Houston Chronicle's John McClain naming the Green Bay Packers' Donald Driver the 2008 Greater Houston NFL Player of the Year.

Driver, who played football at Milby High School, has averaged almost 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards over his last six seasons. Driver grew up in the Houston's Fifth Ward and discussed the obstacles he overcame as a youth and his commitment to the community.

The luncheon, which celebrated the athletic success that can come from hard work and dedication, left Texans fans inspired and excited for next season.

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