Texans take Rice DE Ozougwu with draft's last pick

A few of the Houston Texans worked out at nearby Rice Stadium as they awaited developments in the NFL's labor impasse.

Whenever training camp begins, one of the Owls will join them on their regular practice field.

Rice defensive end Cheta Ozougwu is this year's Mr. Irrelevant after the Texans took him with the 254th and final pick of the NFL draft Saturday. The "irrelevant" moniker is traditionally given to the last pick.

"It's a big relief," Ozougwu said. "I'm blessed to have this opportunity. No matter what was going to be the outcome, whether it's free agency or being the last pick or being a fifth-round pick, I just wanted the opportunity to play the game."

Last year's Mr. Irrelevant was Weber State receiver Tim Toone, who went to Detroit.

Now, it's Ozougwu's turn to enjoy a week's worth of festivities that accompany the honor. Since 1976, the player and his family have been invited to southern California in the offseason to take in "Irrelevant Week," which includes a golf tournament, regatta and a ceremony where he is awarded a trophy depicting a player fumbling a ball.

"I don't know too much about it," Ozougwu said. "It's funny, one of my teammates, about two weeks ago was like, 'Hey man, if you get drafted in the seventh round, like the last pick, you get called something like 'Mr. Irrelevant' or things of that nature, and all these things they do.'

"I had no idea it'd be me," he said, "but I'm definitely thankful for it."

A few Mr. Irrelevants have done just fine in the pros.

Ryan Succop (2009) converted 25 of 29 field-goal attempts as a rookie for Kansas City and is No. 1 on the depth chart, and linebacker David Vobora (2008) started five games last season for St. Louis.

If the pro football career doesn't pan out, Ozougwu has a solid backup plan — he'll graduate from prestigious Rice in May with an economics degree.

The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Ozougwu is the second Rice player drafted by the Texans. He'll join tight end James Casey on the Houston roster. Casey played sparingly at fullback and tight end as a rookie, then took a more prominent role in the offense in 2010, starting four games.

Houston coach Gary Kubiak said Ozougwu will work at linebacker and has a chance to contribute next season.

"He can rush the passer, very smart young man," Kubiak said. "He'll play four different positions for us on defense and be a heck of a special teams player. He has a big football IQ and a high motor, and we think he'll find a way to make it in this league. It's kind of nice that he ended up being right down the street."