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Ryans makes Pro Bowl; Williams, Brown and Demps alternates

HOUSTON -- DeMeco Ryans played in Hawaii twice in college at Alabama and disliked the long flight so much he vowed not to go again unless he made the Pro Bowl.

Hawaii, here he comes.

The middle linebacker was named an AFC starter and was the only Houston Texan named to the squad announced Tuesday. The game is scheduled for Feb. 10 in Honolulu.

"It's a long flight, but for the Pro Bowl I'll go over," he said. "No doubt about it."

The second-year player, who was Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, leads the AFC with 94 solo tackles and his 121 solo tackles are third in the NFL. He has two sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries, including one he returned for a touchdown this season.

His 276 tackles over the past two seasons are the most in the NFL in that span and he's had at least 10 tackles in five games this year.

Last year's top overall pick Mario Williams was named an alternate to the game as was kicker Kris Brown and free safety Will Demps.

Williams was snubbed from the team despite leading the AFC with 13 sacks and having more tackles than two of the three defensive ends chosen.

Ryans has come a long way since the months leading up to last year's draft when scouts predicted that he was too small to ever make much of an impact in the NFL. He was the first pick in the second round.

"There was a lot of criticism about me not being big enough coming into the league or not being the fastest guy," he said. "But all that, it can't measure being a true football player. And that's what I am, just a true football player who loves the game, just high-energy, high-passion every time I step on the field."

Coach Gary Kubiak said he always knew Ryans was going to be a special player.

"Ryans was playing at a Pro Bowl level from the first day he got here," Kubiak said.

After capping his first NFL season by being named Defensive Rookie of the Year and getting the Pro Bowl nod this year, what does Ryans want to do next?

"Playoffs, championship, that's what I'm going for," he said. "Super Bowl."

The Texans have matched their franchise record for wins with seven this season but have been eliminated from playoff contention with two games left.

Ryans was a bit disappointed to have dropped to the second round of the draft, but believes it gave him extra motivation to succeed.

"To come in thinking I was a first-round draft pick and not being a first-round draft pick, it's kind of a little edge on your shoulder trying to prove people wrong, prove to people that I was worthy of that first-round selection," he said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.

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