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Okoye excited to join Texans

At 19 years old, he's the youngest player taken in the first round of the NFL draft since 1967.

So what, says University of Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. He's always been the youngest everywhere he has been.

"That's always been just me," Okoye said via telephone after the Texans made him their first round pick, 10th overall, on Saturday. "There's never been anything bad about being the youngest. I never looked at it like everybody else did."

Okoye was born in Anambra, Nigeria where he started school at age 2½ because, the story goes, his mother was the principal of the school and she couldn't find a babysitter.

He moved to the United States when he was 12 and tests projected him in the ninth grade that year. He ended up playing on his Huntsville, Ala., high school varsity team as a 13-year-old sophomore and graduated from high school at the age of 15.

At Louisville, Okoye played enough to letter as a 16-year-old freshman when he was the youngest player in college football. He started one game as a sophomore and 10 as a junior before coming into his own last season.

That's when the 6-2, 302-pounder had 58 tackles and eight sacks to go with 15 tackles for losses as he won All-Big East Conference honors. For his college career, he started 24 games, had 121 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles for losses.

Now Okoye moves into the NFL as a teenager who won't turn 20 until June. He sees that as nothing but a plus.

"Not at all," Okoye said when asked if his age could be a disadvantage in pro football. "We are going to find out soon, but I think my age is going to be beneficial. Eventually I think it will help me to be a great player."

{QUOTE} The Texans think the same, believing that his youth only means he has longer to evolve into greatness. He is expected to step in and start next to last year's No. 1 pick, defensive end Mario Williams. Williams likes the idea.

"This was a great pick to me," Williams said by phone from the NFL draft in New York. "I can use all the help I can get. To have another player to help play beside me, I'm up for it.

"I really don't know too much about him. I've watched him on film and stuff like that. One of my previous (teammates) that came up this year worked out with him and said he was a good guy and everything, so I look forward to meeting him."

Okoye doesn't know much about the Texans.

"I know for sure when I spoke to the coach and he said you've got the job that my addition could help turn them around defensively," Okoye said. "I am looking forward to being an addition to the team and helping attain the goals set by the coaches and players.

"It's going to be a fun experience. I can't wait to go down there and meet the team. It's been a long month to find out who you are going to be playing with. I can't wait."

And being young hasn't put any limits on Okoye's goals.

"Like any other rookie, I want to be Rookie of the Year and go to the Pro Bowl," Okoye said. "And I want to be a factor in helping the team reach its defensive goals."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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