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Texans select Okoye with 10th overall pick

Gary Kubiak certainly doesn't play favorites. Houston's head coach has had two first round picks since coming to the Texans and despite spending his entire coaching career on the offensive side of the ball, he's now selected two defensive linemen in the first round of the NFL Draft in two opportunities.

By selecting former Louisville defensive lineman Amobi Okoye with the 10th overall selection Saturday, Kubiak and Texans general manager Rick Smith have shown they are determined to build a championship defense in Houston.

"I think what we did last year showed that we are committed to building a team and building a defense," Smith told reporters shortly after the pick. "When you talk about that, you talk about building down the middle.

"We started that last year with DeMeco Ryans and what he was able to do with us at Mike linebacker and we're building from the middle out. I'm just excited about the kid."

The fact that Okoye was available came as surprise to many as most mock drafts had the 19-year old phenom going before Houston went on the clock. The Texans were in that group.

"We absolutely were shocked," Smith said. "I think in all of our mock drafts we looked at one scenario in which he was available."

Smith said that the Texans entertained trade opportunities, but ultimately couldn't pass on a player that the team had rated so high.

"We're extremely pleased with the opportunity to select player such as Amobi," he said. "He was our top-rated defensive player on the board...This kid is an outstanding football player."

{QUOTE} In his heart of hearts, Kubiak might have hoped the Texans would be in a position to snatch an offensive dynamo, but with Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and Ted Ginn Jr. all off the board by the time the Texans chose, it was easy to pull the trigger on Okoye, a player who reminds Kubiak of someone in his past.

"I'll tell you when we were watching him preparing for the draft, I have a player that I'm a big fan of from my time in San Francisco, Bryant Young, who was a great player for many years," Kubiak said when asked if Okoye reminded him of anyone.

Kubiak also acknowledged that Okoye's skill set is something that you don't see come around every year.

"It's very difficult to find defensive players that play inside to rush the passer and this kid can do that," he said.

Okoye becomes the youngest player to ever be drafted in the first round and the second-youngest to get drafted in any round.

He was the youngest athlete to appear in a collegiate game in 2003 at age 16. As a freshman at Louisville that season, Okoye was one of eight first-year players to letter.

He's only improved since and was named a unanimous All-Big East Conference selection in 2006, starting every game, racking up 55 tackles (38 solos) and ranked second on the team with eight sacks.

As happy as Kubiak and Smith were on Saturday, there may have been one man in Reliant Stadium in even a better mood. Texans defensive line coach Jethro Franklin begins his first season in Houston this fall and he'll have a young, gifted athlete to coach.

"He has some real good pass rush ability," Franklin said Saturday. "He can sink his hips, change direction, he can play the run, and he's overall, a very good player. What's even more attractive is that he's very young, he's going to bring energy. He's going to compliment what's already been built here."

If there was a knock on Okoye coming out of college, it was his size. Despite bulking up to 302 pounds to go along with his 6-2 frame, some question whether Okoye can play every down inside in the NFL.

His new coach is not worried.

"No, no concern whatsoever," Franklin said. "He's big enough, he's strong enough, he's athletic enough. He's going to be an every down player, no question about it."

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