Skip to main content

Ryans taking game to new heights


Reinhold Niebuhr likely wasn't thinking about pro football when he penned The Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans, however, has adapted that time-tested refrain into a way of life. He skips whining and goes directly to what he can change.

Last season, Ryans had a contract renewal hanging over his head. The Texans' defense fizzled in the first three games. And, there was this rookie phenom, Brian Cushing, who had the potential to steal some of his headlines.

Yet, Ryans was standing there daily in front of his locker with a smile on his face, taking on all questions. His expression or demeanor hasn't changed this season.

In fact, it never changes.

"DeMeco will be the same guy regardless of the situation," Cushing said. "I think he's one of those guys you can't tell if anything is bothering him. He is going to get the job done. He's big into his faith and loves what he's doing and he's a solid character. You won't catch him off guard. He's a pro's pro."

If Ryans was worried about anything last season, maybe it's a good thing. He was second to Cushing in total tackles at 123; earned his second Pro Bowl berth and completed his fourth season of starting every game since his rookie year.

"Football is football," Ryans said. "That situation (contract) didn't change my mentality as far as playing football. Every time I step onto the field, it's about winning. I'm not thinking of anything that can get in the way of winning. All my thoughts are about winning and trying to find a way to win."

{QUOTE}Ryans, the Texans' all-time leading tackler (518), has the same approach this season, facing Indianapolis in the first game and playing the early games without Cushing, who will serve a four-game suspension to start the season.

"It is what it is, you have to deal with it," Ryans said. "It's something I can't control and it does no good to worry about what I can't control. Worry won't bring Cush back for the first four games. We have to move on and see who's going to replace him. That's my focus."

Despite his forward-looking nature, Ryans hasn't forgotten how the team stumbled at the start of last season. True, the team must move on, but he doesn't want anyone forgetting what could happen again.

"It's not behind me in my mind," Ryans said. "I'm always thinking how we started out last year and trying to reverse that this year. There is a sense of urgency. We have to start fired up. I tell the guys to remember how we started last year. We can't have that again. A couple of those games would have put us in the playoffs."

The Texans face big tests early this season with a schedule that is tied for the toughest in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. Houston plays the Colts in their first game. They then play Washington, Dallas and Oakland.

Ryans' response? Can't change it. Deal with it and get it done.

"I was excited when the schedule came out and saw that we start with the Colts," Ryans said. "I love it because we get to see right off the bat where we are as team. We don't have to wait around to see where we're at."

Ryans has been a starter since he reported for his first Texans training camp in 2006. After playing outside linebacker at Alabama, he switched to the middle and had the kind of season that will be hard to repeat. He set a club record with 156 total tackles and led the team in tackles the next three seasons until Cushing got the most last season.

Although they are all about team, that assuredly doesn't set well with Ryans. He acknowledges that he and Cushing compete in everything.

"We always find some way to compete, even if it's shooting (rolled up) tape at the trash can," Ryans said. "There is always that competitive thing."

Cushing lockers beside Ryans in the Texans locker room. It's a lively relationship.

"The competitive nature brings out the best in one another," Cushing said. "We both want the best for each other and we both want to be the best and it's almost second nature now. We think so alike.

"Before a play, we can just look at each other and know what we're going to do."

Linebackers coach Johnny Holland is happy to have both players.

"DeMeco is unique," Holland said. "He's been a good football player and he's ready to take it to another level. He's a good student of the game, conscious of everything that's going on around him. What's big is the leadership qualities he brings to our team. He leads by example and we really love that in him."

Adding Cushing to the mix has been a coach's dream.

"They play off each other," Holland said. "DeMeco is more under control and he's solid in his responsibilities and his technique and drill work. Brian is a playmaker. He's a big strong guy who can dominate the game and he has a knack for making plays. He and DeMeco blend with each other.

"When I'm looking for a player the first thing I look for is if he's competitive. They take it to another level, in the weight room, driving to practice to see who gets there first. That's exactly what you look for in a player."

Holland has watched the Texans' linebacking corps move forward, led by Ryans and Cushing.

"In the five years I've been here, we've been building great character guys," Holland said. "Our guys are trained to play any position and with Brian out, it gives someone a chance to show what they can do. I have a lot of confidence in our backup players that they can get it done. It gives someone else a chance to show what they can do."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content