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Houston Texans

Texans draft 'Bama center Caldwell in third


Caldwell was a four-year starter at Alabama who played four different positions along the offensive line.

In need of depth on the interior offensive line, the Texans selected Alabama center Antoine Caldwell (6-3, 307) 77th overall in the third round of the draft on Sunday. Caldwell lined up at every offensive line position but left tackle in four seasons as a starter at Alabama, allowing only one quarterback sack during his final 23 games.

The versatile Alabama lineman will provide valuable depth behind center Chris Myers and guards Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel, but he will not be expected to supplant Myers in the starting lineup. Texans offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said that the team is thrilled with Myers' performance last season.

All five of the Texans' starting linemen stayed healthy for 16 games in the 2008 regular season, a rarity in the NFL.

"When you have five O-line positions and you only dress seven on game days, that's an issue, so you need a guy who is capable of playing all three spots," Shanahan said. "Now we've got that guy. Last year, I'd like to say it was lucky that all five guys stayed healthy all year. The odds of it happening again are not very high, so we needed a guy like this."

Caldwell started 48 games in four college seasons - 34 at center, 12 at left guard, one at right guard and one at right tackle. He'll now transition to a role where he's expected to learn the offense and remain in the background.

"I'm just going to be a sponge to everything," Caldwell said. "Even if I have to sit back or whatever, it doesn't matter to me. I'll sit back and learn from the guys ahead of me. And hopefully, I just want to go in there and compete. I learned at Alabama that competition raises the play of everybody, and I want to be able to go in and do that."

{QUOTE}Caldwell, the only player in his school's history to earn a degree in three years or less, was regarded as the heart and soul of the Alabama offensive line. He is one of only eight players ever to be named an Alabama team captain for two seasons.

"I hope to bring a sense of leadership (to the Texans), even if it's playing a backup role," he said. "(I want to be) a guy that's going to be dependable, a guy that's going to be consistent, a guy that's going to be a leader day in and day out and going to do the right things on and off the field."

A native of Montgomery, Ala., Caldwell began his college career at left guard, starting 11 games there before moving to center for the final game of the season. He became the Tide's starting center in 2006 and earned first-team All-SEC honors.

Midway through his junior season, Caldwell shifted to left guard, right guard and right tackle in different games when injuries depleted the Alabama offensive line. He moved back to the center position as a senior and was named first-team All-American and first-team All-Southeastern Conference.

As a Texan, Caldwell will be reunited with linebacker DeMeco Ryans. The two played together at Alabama in 2004 and 2005.

"DeMeco was a mentor to me when I was at Alabama - kind of took me under his wing - and I've always admired the way he works," Caldwell said. "I admire his leadership. And actually to be a part of his team now, I know he's done a great job out there, so I'm just excited. It's truly a blessing, and I'm looking forward to it."

Shanahan said that the Texans were considering running backs Shonn Greene (Iowa) and Glen Coffee (Alabama), but both backs were taken in the third round before the Texans' selection. Greene went to the New York Jets at No. 65, while Coffee was picked 74th overall by the San Francisco 49ers.

"It would've been tough (to pass on them) at the beginning of the day for me personally," Shanahan said. "But those two guys who went today were pretty good players, so that made it a little easier to go with this guy."

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