With Mario Williams missing most of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, third-year ILB Brian Cushing, a 2009 first-round pick from USC, has emerged as a star on a revamped Houston Texans defense rated 3rd in the NFL in pass yardage allowed and 4th in rush yardage allowed.
One player who has noticed is Ray Lewis, one of Cushing's idols growing up, who was extremely complementary of the Texans star in interviews leading up to the Baltimore Ravens playoff game with the Texans this week:
"I just think he plays with a very, very, very high motor," Lewis said. "It’s one special thing that every linebacker, a good linebacker, has to have. And that is one thing that I appreciate about the way he plays football."
"[Lewis] told me to stay healthy and to keep doing what I’m doing," Cushing said. "Any chance I get to talk to him and pick his brain, I do. … He’s the No. 1 guy I watched. I’ve always looked up to him."
In three years in the NFL, Cushing has already made two All-Pro teams, missing out in 2010 only because he was suspended for the first four games of the season for using performance-enhancing drugs.
This year, the 6'3 250 LB was named the Texans MVP while racking up 114 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.