On Tuesday morning, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was named the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. The following is a transcript of the press conference in his honor, and he was joined at the podium by general manager Rick Smith and linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
General manager Rick Smith Linebacker Brian Cushing Linebacker DeMeco Ryans
General Manager Rick Smith
(Opening statement) "It is a pleasure to be here for this announcement and a very proud day for our organization, our city. Back in the draft preparation for last year's draft, the young man sitting next to me here to our left (LB Brian Cushing) earned a lot of admiration and respect from our staff and we saw a player that we thought had the potential to really come in and make an impact on our football team and on our organization and he certainly has done that. I think he has earned the respect of his teammates. I'm flanked here by one of those guys (LB DeMeco Ryans) and these two guys have done an excellent job leading our football team and leading our defense in particular this last season. Today, obviously, is about Brian and his accomplishment. Like he earned our admiration and respect, I think he has earned the respect of his teammates. I think he has certainly earned the respect of his competitors and the men that he competes against. Obviously today indicates that he has earned the respect of the media as well. I am very proud of him. We are very proud of him as an organization. I would like to, at this time, introduce the 2009 Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year, Mr. Brian Cushing.
LB Brian Cushing(Opening statement) "I would just like to start and just let everyone know how thankful and grateful I am for this award. There is no question that I couldn't have done it without everyone in this room. Certain people like (general manager) Rick Smith and (LB) DeMeco Ryans, (owner) Mr. (Bob) McNair and everyone that is part of the Texans organization—(head) Coach (Gary) Kubiak, (linebackers coach) Johnny Holland and everyone. It has been a crazy first year. I'm just really thankful. Everything has been great. It's been awesome. Once again, I couldn't have done it without the help of everyone. This is a huge honor. This is one of the things that I hope to bring to the organization and the city of Houston for a long time to come. It's been everything that I dreamed of and more. I really am looking forward to the future and next season. It's one of those things. I definitely couldn't have done it myself. I would just like to thank everyone and I really appreciate this."
(on if he was concerned about being able to contribute right away after missing the preseason) "Yeah, I was. There was no question that missing the preseason was a little worrisome for myself. Not being able to be out there with the team and contribute. From another standpoint, I was really able to step my game up mentally. I wasn't able to physically participate, but as far as film and watching practice and just being in there for extra hours, I was able to really get a jump start on that."
(on being a landslide winner of the award) "It means a lot. It means the respect of the writers, they obviously see something. I'm really proud of that. I'm really happy about that. The other guys, without question, had great rookie season as well. With (Green Bay OLB) Clay Matthews, (Washington OLB) Brian Orakpo and (Buffalo FS) Jairus Byrd, it's tough that you can only give it to one rookie. I think that it was a great rookie class, defensively and overall. I think that the other guys had great seasons, but to win it and to win like that, it's just a huge honor."
LB DeMeco Ryans
(on what he told Cushing about this award) "I told him that he had to win it. That's the standard here of the Houston Texans organization on the defensive side, especially linebackers, you have to go out and play well and go get that Defensive Rookie of the Year award. There was no doubt about it, watching him play throughout the season. He just continued to get better. Week in and week out, he just got better and better and continued to make big plays for our defense. He was definitely the key to our defensive success this year."
LB Brian Cushing
(on if he has spoken to any of the other USC rookie linebackers) "Yeah, there's no question, I talk to those guys a lot. Actually, Clay (Matthews) congratulated me about three days ago and figured that was probably it. It was a real good year, not just for myself but for the other three guys too. It just proves how well coached we were. Coming out of that school, we wanted the best for each other. I talk to (Cincinnati LB) Rey (Maualuga) and (Cleveland LB) Kaluka (Maiava) and all those guys probably two to three times a week. The progress we've made, I feel we did it as a group this year. I feel I represent them as well."
General Manager Rick Smith
(on what he did that surprised him this year) "I think the thing that comes to mind immediately is the fact that he was able to perform and produce the way he did without the practice reps. That's just impressive. You just don't see a rookie come into this league, like you mentioned before that he missed the time in preseason, but the other thing that was so impressive to me was as the season progressed, he battled some injuries and so he wasn't able to practice on a consistent basis during the course of the season. But he was able to go out on Sunday and produce and perform and I think that speaks to, as he talked about, his mental approach to the game and how he elevated that. That was probably the most impressive other than the physical battles that he battled that the average person has no idea what he put his body through, to sacrifice and play every week. Other than that, I think the most impressive thing is the fact that he was able to mentally be able to play at the level where he was able to do it."
LB Brian Cushing
(on tying Baltimore LB Ray Lewis for most tackles in the AFC) "You always have sights and dreams you set yourself behind going into the year. It all came pretty fast. It's one of those things that you probably won't have a chance to understand until two or three weeks after the season, what you did. There are dreams and aspirations and things you want to do and then when I see myself in the category with Ray Lewis, a guy who I watched win Super Bowls when I was in sixth grade, it's just one of those things that I have to be thankful for. A lot of hard work paid off and once again, it's just one of those big honors that I'm really happy about."
LB DeMeco Ryans
(on his initial thoughts of Cushing upon being drafted and first impressions meeting him) "I talked to Brian after we drafted him. I told him that I was happy that we picked him. I knew he was a great player, watching the USC defense, they were always in the top ranks and they sent a lot of people out when he was in college. So a defense that performs like that in college, you have to have some great players and Brian had a lot to do with that. When I met him, he kind of shocked me. He was a lot bigger than I expected. I was like, 'This is a big linebacker.' When we got out on the practice field, watching him run and watching the way he went through the drills and everything, I had to step back because wow, this is impressive for this guy to be as big as he is—what're you? 265? A big guy running around. He's very athletic, so it was very surprising to me."
(on if he came in wanting a mentor or if that happened naturally) "I think coming in your first year, you're a little unclear about everything. You're just trying to find yourself, find what you envision of yourself and everything you want to do. There was no question, when I came in and when I met DeMeco, I figured he was the clear-cut leader, not only of the defense but really the team. I think it's pretty obvious. Talking to him and after the second week of camp, they moved my locker next to his; I think everyone wanted that. Then the kind of bond and how we gelled on the field, it was huge. There is no question that I couldn't have done this without him. Every single step of the way, he was always helping me or trying to improve my game. I just felt that every single week, I was getting better due to his mentoring and watching him as a person and player, on and off the field."
(on how tough it was to play with the multitude of injuries) "It's just football. I'm alright. I really am. Nothing serious. Nothing that requires surgery. Just some minor stuff. That's why you play the game, that's why. Every single Sunday, it's going to be rough. On every Monday, it's going to be worse waking up that next day. It's all about love. That's why I do it. There is no question I was banged up, but so was the whole team. It's just one of those things you have to fight through."
LB DeMeco Ryans
(on if there was a moment in a game where he saw something and said 'Wow') "It was every week. It wasn't one particular moment—every week. I'm used to being the leading tackler on the team. This rookie is making more tackles than I'm making. He impressed me every week we stepped out there. I really appreciate him. He helped me elevate my game and made me better. It's just that competition between me and him, just trying to be the best, that's what took our games to the next level. Me and Brian, we always talk about being the best—being the best one-two punch out there and just leading the defense. This is what we're looking to do for years to come."
LB Brian Cushing(on how he will feel being at the Pro Bowl with this award now that everyone will know) "It is exciting. It's kind of one of those burdens that you want. I feel that growing up as a player, you want the pressure. I feel that I'm one of those guys that want the pressure, want they hype and wants to be able live up to it. I feel that it drives me even more. It's one of those things: you have the name now and the trademark to it. Every single day, no matter what you do in the NFL, you have to hold it."
(on questions about his durability before the draft and how meaningful it was to answer those question) "I think the people that really mattered knew how durable I was. I am here now and played all sixteen (games). It doesn't really mean anything now, besides the fact that I was able to give it up for the team every single week. I had two injuries in college and I don't know anyone that hasn't. It's just one of those things that is pre-draft talk. The biggest thing is that I finished the year and it was a successful year. It just leaves room to build upon it from here on out."
General Manager Rick Smith
(on his anticipation of drafting Cushing last year in the draft) "Yeah, what you try to do is as the draft approaches and the closer you get, you start to get as much information as you can to try and predict how the boards are going to fall. We had a pretty good idea that we were going to have a chance to get him. We let our process take its course. I walked in (Texans head coach) Gary (Kubiak)'s office in March and he knew how much I liked this guy. He said, 'You like Cushing. You want to take him don't you?' I said, 'Well, we've got to go through the process, but I love him.' As the draft was approaching and it was obvious, or was starting to look like we were going to have a chance, we got excited about it. Certainly on draft day, when he was there, we were excited about the pick and the possibility. I'm proud of the way he's come in and done the job that he's done. I'm excited about DeMeco and Brian and our defense. These two guys that flank me here are going to lead this organization to some heights that we all want and I'm excited about that."
LB DeMeco Ryans
(on if they are taking anyone to the Pro Bowl with them) "It's on Cushing this year. He's taking all the linebackers, (linebackers coach) Coach (Johnny) Holland, get ready to go, Robert Saleh, assistant linebackers coach, it's all on Cushing this year."
LB Brian Cushing(on if it's on him to take everyone to the Pro Bowl this year) "This is the first time I heard about that, so I might have to think about that."