HOUSTON -- When the Houston Texans wrap up their offseason program Tuesday, Amobi Okoye just might celebrate the beginning of his break before training camp with a cocktail.
Okoye is already a millionaire with an NFL season behind him, but Tuesday the precocious defensive tackle will reach a milestone most men hit in college. He'll celebrate his 21st birthday. And because he'll finally be legal, that party might involve a drink or two.
"More than likely I'll have something," he said with a laugh.
When the Texans chose Okoye 10th in the 2007 draft, he was just 19, making him the youngest player drafted in the NFL since 1967.
Okoye's youth is a rarity in the league where rules demand a player be three years out of high school before entering the draft.
Okoye started high school at 12 and college at 16. He graduated from Louisville in 3 1/2 years with a degree in psychology.
Though his birthday is on Tuesday, the official celebration won't be until next weekend when he has three days of events planned. The weekend is scheduled to include a football camp, celebrity basketball game, silent auction and a Saturday night party featuring actress Sanaa Lathan and rapper Juelz Santana.
He's using the weekend to launch his foundation and proceeds from the events will go to fund its projects. The foundation's goal is to help children reach their potential through education and support.
"I figured it was a good time to launch my foundation because I love doing things for children and helping out and I feel like I'm at a level now where children look up to me," he said. "So I feel like I should do everything I can to create opportunities for people and help them out."
Okoye has endured endless teasing because of his age and youthful appearance since joining the team. Now that he's turning 21, does he think the taunting will end?
"No, I get it all the time," he said. "I've been getting that forever. I'll probably still get it even after I'm 21. I'll probably always get it."
Okoye started 14 games last season and had 23 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks. While his teammates prefer to make fun of him about his age, coach Gary Kubiak has nothing but praise for the youngster lately.
"In this camp, I think he's the most improved player," Kubiak said. "He was a pretty darn good player to begin with, but what started taking place here over the last three weeks, you saw a guy go from still having some of his rookie habits, but those went away in one week and I haven't noticed them in the last two."
Kubiak is fond of saying that players normally make the biggest improvement from their first to second years in the NFL. That was certainly the case for top overall pick Mario Williams and Kubiak is hoping the same is true for Okoye.
"He's growing up and becoming better and becoming a pro," Kubiak said. "If that happens we're going to be a better football team."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved