The Texans fortified their offensive line with the 33rd-overall pick in the draft, former UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo (6-4, 307). Su'a-Filo played both left tackle and left guard during his three-year career as a Bruin. In a conference call following his selection, the newest Texan said he met the coaching staff during the NFL Combine.
"At the NFL Combine I had the chance to have an interview with them," Su'a-Filo said in his press conference Friday. "I was very impressed. Obviously they had the first overall pick and great teammates. They told me anything could happen in the process and I'm glad I ended up in Houston."
With the loss of Wade Smith to free agency, the Texans have a need at left guard. With rookie minicamp beginning May 16, that's likely where head coach Bill O'Brien will place him.
"We think that Xavier can play for us at guard," O'Brien said. "He'll come in and battle for that position. Rookies come in to these situations and it's very tough because it's a big jump from college football to pro football, but we'll start coaching him up in the rookie minicamp this weekend. We'll start him off there at guard and let him compete for that position and then we'll see how that goes."
Su'a-Filo patterns his game after a player O'Brien is familiar with, New England's Logan Mankins. The young offensive lineman refers to Mankins' style of play as "physical and nasty."
"You watch Logan play, sometimes he kicks out to tackle so you know he's athletic enough to do it all, but he's physical, he's nasty," Su'a-Filo said. "He comes off the ball, he tries to punish people. He plays this game trying to punish people and that's the biggest thing that I love that sticks out to me about him."
Su'a-Filo started all 40 games that he suited up for at UCLA, starting 21 contests at left guard and 19 more at left tackle. He recorded 43 touchdown-resulting blocks and 337 knockdowns during his collegiate career.
"I'm not sure what they have in mind for me," Su'a-Filo said. "I can play either. I just want to get in there and compete and contribute and help this team as best that I can. It all starts up front. I want to get the o-line going."
After starting all 13 games in 2009 at left tackle, Su'a-Filo left UCLA for two years to serve a Mormon church mission. He returned in 2012, starting all 14 games at left guard, and split his 2013 season between left guard (7 games) and left tackle (6 games).
"It helped me," Su'a-Filo said of his hiatus. "Obviously, I was away from the game for two years, but I think it helped me be physically more mature and mentally more mature and helped me just become a better football player. When I came back I was an older guy. I was more suited to be a leader at UCLA. I look at it all positive."
In 2013 he received All-American first-team honors from The NFL Draft Report and NFL.com, adding second-team accolades from the Associated Press, USA Today and Athlon Sports. The Pac-12 defensive players voted him as the conference's best offensive lineman, earning him the Morris Trophy. He helped block for a Bruins offense that averaged 448.1 yards per game.
When asked if he had been to Houston before, Su'a-Filo's response was enthusiastic.
"The whole state of Texas is pretty sweet but I'm looking forward to eating at Pappadeaux and Whataburger," Su'a-Filo said.