Ryans elated with Pro Bowl bid

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It's a good thing DeMeco Ryans doesn't need a resume. At the rate he's going, the Texans' second-year middle linebacker wouldn't have room for half of the honors he seems destined to rack up in his NFL career.

A season after taking home the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award and a slew of other postseason accolades, Ryans reached another benchmark on Tuesday when he was named a starter for the AFC squad in the 2008 Pro Bowl.

It will be the first career Pro Bowl for Ryans, who ranks first in the AFC with 94 solo tackles and second with 120 total stops heading into Week 17. He becomes the third Texan selected to start in the Pro Bowl, joining wide receiver Andre Johnson (2007) and cornerback Aaron Glenn (2003), and the fifth Texan in franchise history to make the NFL's all-star game.

"I'm feeling great right now," Ryans said with a cheek-to-cheek smile. "This is a big day for me. To be in the Pro Bowl, this is the biggest accomplishment that you can make personally as a player, because you want to be touted as one of the best in the NFL.

"It's just a dream come true just to be playing in the NFL. But to actually become a Pro Bowl player in the NFL is huge, and I never dreamed that it would be that way in only my second year in the NFL. This is a huge accomplishment for me."

A second-round draft pick of the Texans last season, Ryans led the NFL with 126 solo tackles and led all rookies with 156 tackles, the most by a rookie in more than 20 years, finishing the season with nine double-digit tackle days on his way to rookie of the year honors.

Yet without the hype of some other players, Ryans did not receive a postseason trip to Hawaii.

By the start of the 2007 season, the rest of the league was well aware of what the Texans' defensive captain could do.

Of course, that didn't mean they could stop him.

Playing through ankle and knee injuries all season, Ryans has racked up five double-digit tackle games and led the team in tackles seven of 14 times, and in 19 out of 30 games in his career.

{QUOTE}Ryans also has two sacks for 18 yards lost this season, an interception, six passes defensed, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and a 26-yard touchdown off a fumble that he forced and recovered.

That's just what DeMeco does: everything.

"He's been the nucleus of our defense and our team," linebackers coach Johnny Holland said. "He's established himself as a leader and he's a young player, but he plays like a seasoned veteran that's been around seven or eight years.

"The unique thing about DeMeco is he has a great knack for making players around him better. As a player, he's a very instinctive guy, he's a really bright guy and really has a great understanding of the game. He's a really smart player."

Ryans credited Holland, defensive coordinator Richard Smith and his teammates for the award, especially veteran linebackers Shawn Barber and Danny Clark for providing invaluable tutelage in their first season with the Texans.

He said he was honored to be recognized as one of the best at his position by his peers. And he's certainly come a long way since feeling slighted by being passed up in the first round of the 2006 draft after he had been a unanimous All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year at the University of Alabama.

"There was a lot of criticism about me not being big enough coming into the league or not being the fastest guy, but all that, it can't measure being a true football player," Ryans said. "And that's what I am, just a true football player who loves the game. I'm just high-energy, high-passion every time I step on the field, just having fun.

"To come in the second year and be in the Pro Bowl, it's like, 'OK, here it is, I'm a Pro Bowl player,' and I'm happy to be here and doing it with the Houston Texans."

Defensive end Mario Williams, despite leading the AFC with 13 sacks, was left off the Pro Bowl roster. Perhaps Williams' recent explosion – he has nine sacks in his last five games – happened too late for others around the league to take notice. Williams, kicker Kris Brown and free safety Will Demps were named AFC alternates to the Pro Bowl.

Holland draws a parallel from Ryans to Williams.

"When you're not in the national spotlight all the time as far as a team, sometimes guys will get overlooked," Holland said. "(Williams) has 13 sacks, second in the league in sacks, and has been having an awesome year and didn't get voted in, but it just shows that a lot of times that when you don't make it when you're deserving to make it, the next year you certainly have a chance to make it.

"We just hope that we can develop more guys to have an opportunity to play in the Pro Bowl, and DeMeco has the opportunity to pave the way."

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