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Texans draft Cushing at No. 15


The Texans used the 15th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft to bolster their linebacker corps, selecting high-motored USC linebacker Brian Cushing (6-3, 243). Cushing, who ran a 4.69 40 at the combine and excels at stopping the run, will be expected to earn immediate playing time at strongside linebacker when he reports for mini-camp in June.

The Texans entertained trade offers to move back in the draft. But defensive coordinator Frank Bush and the Texans' staff couldn't pass on Cushing, a versatile player who also lined up at defensive end at USC. The Texans' defense ranked 22nd in yards allowed last season, 23rd against the run.

"I can't tell you enough how excited we are to have Brian," Bush said. "Brian was a kid that we targeted all along. We just like the way he plays football. I like the energy he brings, the intensity he brings.

"He was my guy ever since I've watched him early in this season and throughout the combine."

Cushing will compete with Zac Diles for the starting strongside linebacker spot as a rookie. Diles suffered a season-ending leg injury midway through the 2008 season.

"We feel really good about Zac, but with an opportunity to get a kid that we believe can be an impact player for us, we're going to give him an opportunity to get on the field early," Bush said. "Hopefully, he can come out and make plays for us."

Texans head coach Gary Kubiak recalled meeting Cushing at the scouting combine.

{QUOTE}"It's funny, the night we interviewed him in Indianapolis, I asked him if he ever relaxed," Kubiak said. "He said, 'Not very often, Coach.' So when I talked to him after the draft, I told him to go ahead and relax tonight and we'll get back to work tomorrow. He said, 'I promise you I will.'

"We just love what the kid stands for, how he loves the game. He is all business, and that's what we need. We need somebody like that to come in and help us right away."

Cushing said he understands the expectations that come with being a first-round pick. He's eager not to disappoint his new coaches and teammates.

"I think I can bring a lot of intensity," he said. "I can also bring a lot of versatility, and I"m a guy that's going to play hard on every single play trying to make that tackle."

In early April, an Internet report falsely accused Cushing and fellow USC linebacker Clay Matthews III of testing positive for steroids at the scouting combine. Cushing, who has never failed a drug test in his life, and Matthews were both cleared of that allegation weeks later when both of their names were absent from the official report that was sent to all 32 NFL teams.

"We vetted the process really thoroughly," general manager Rick Smith said. "We feel really good about who he is as a man and who he is as an athlete and a player, and we are really excited about adding him to our football team. He's a hard-working, blue-collar guy."

Cushing, who has been hounded by steroids rumors for years, said he's not worried about the accusations following him to the NFL.

"I'm going to continue to prove people wrong like I have in my (entire) career," Cushing said. "Day-in and day-out, I'm just going to keep working hard. People can say what they want to say, but everyone knows the truth."

In his four-year USC career, Cushing started 38 games - 31 at strongside linebacker and 13 as a stand-up defensive end in USC's 3-4 "Elephant' defense - and totaled 178 tackles (101 solo) and 8.5 sacks.

Playing on the top defense in college football last season, he had 73 tackles (10.5 for loss) and earned first-team All Pac-10 honors.

"We felt like Brian brought something that we needed and that's a form of intensity he brings, work ethic and leadership," Bush said. "Again, he's had the experience of being a starter for quite a number of years. We really wanted this kid."

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