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Okoye looking for new gear in '09


Last year did not go according to plan for Amobi Okoye. After recording 32 tackles and 5.5 sacks in his rookie season, the defensive tackle suffered a high ankle sprain and finished with just 24 tackles and one sack in 2008.

"I started out the season just OK, but as soon things stared getting right for me was when the injury occurred," Okoye said. "I came back earlier than most expected because the team needed me to come back and I toughed it out for the season. Toward the end of the season, I was happier with my play. Overall, I think the 2008 season wasn't the season I wanted statistically, but play-wise, I think I took a step forward."

{QUOTE}Okoye, the Texans' 10th overall draft pick in 2007, would like to make a giant leap forward next season. A month off has allowed his ankle to heal, and since he returned from the Pro Bowl, he has been hitting the gym with newfound motivation.

"I took January all the way until the Pro Bowl off," Okoye said. "I went to the Pro Bowl with Mario (Williams), and obviously with that, there is a lot of motivation to go on your own.

"Last year, coming off my rookie year, I didn't want to do something unless I was forced to do it. So last year, I didn't do anything until April. I'm taking a different approach this year. Like I said, I went to the Pro Bowl and it motivated me seeing the guys there knowing that I could be there also. So after the Pro Bowl was over, I came back and started working out."

Okoye has been focusing on improving his conditioning and increasing his core strength and is working his way toward heavy press lifting sessions. On Tuesday, he met with new defensive line coach Bill Kollar to review his offseason program.

Kollar is regarded by many in the league as a hard-nosed coach who gets the most out of his players, and Okoye thinks Kollar can help get him to the next level, especially when it comes to technique.

"I watched the work he (Kollar) did with the D-line in Buffalo," Okoye said. "I like the way they came off the ball. I liked the way they got after it. I am looking forward to working with him. I think he'll be a great addition to the team."

Okoye plans to ramp up his workouts until mid-March, when he leaves for a community-building trip in is native Nigeria. InVictus91 Sports Marketing group and the Amobi Okoye Foundation are sponsoring a second mission to the country entitled, "Athletes in the Diaspora:Community Interventions (ADCI)."

"This program is dear to my heart," Okoye said. "We have five parts of this program, which include scholarship programs and health care programs. We are starting in Nigeria, but we are planning to expand to different countries."

This year, Okoye will be joined by his teammate linebacker Xavier Adibi, as well as Chicago's Tommie Harris, Israel Idonije and Adewale Ogunleye, the New York Giants' Osi Umenyiora and Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha.

"The program is getting bigger and bigger," Okoyw said. "When I meet athletes, a lot them say that they want to go back to Africa, and our program is one way they can do that and give back."

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