How Texans coach DeMeco Ryans earned ‘Cap’ nickname from former teammate Travis Johnson, ‘battle of minds’ against Drew Brees outlined

DeMeco Ryans’ cerebral nature, infectious personality described by former Texans defensive teammate Travis Johnson, including intellectual football clash against Saints quarterback Drew Brees

New Texans Head Coach: DeMeco Ryan gets 6-year deal

HOUSTON – When the Texans drafted DeMeco Ryans in the second round, they already had a projected starting middle linebacker in veteran Pro Bowl selection Sam Cowart and were contemplating how to align their defense.

Ryans cemented his status and made an immediate impact on the Texans as he overtook and ultimately replaced an injured Cowart, emerging as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

From the start, there was something special about Ryans as a player and as a person that resonated with his teammates.

The future Texans head coach earned the nickname “Cap,” as the defensive team captain from veteran defensive tackle Travis Johnson.

‘It’s a long way back, we might have been arguing or something, but he was just ‘Cap,’ from the jump,” Johnson said. “It was like, ‘Okay, Captain.’ He was always that guy to put you in your place when you were wrong and pat you on the back when you were right. DeMeco was one of those guys who always led by example and had that leadership quality about him. We signed Sam Cowart to be the starting middle linebacker. From Day One, DeMeco outshined him. He came in here with purpose and Sam didn’t even make it out of training camp because of the type of guy DeMeco was.”

A Pro Bowl selection who finished his career as the Texans’ second-ranked all-time leader in tackles, Ryans wasn’t the biggest linebacker at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds. He excelled because of his instincts, toughness and intellect.

Johnson recalled how Ryans matched wits with New Orleans Saints star quarterback Drew Brees, outlining a chess match between the quarterback of the Texans’ defense and one of the top passers of the past two decades.

“DeMeco’s football IQ was second to none,” Johnson said. “Drew Brees would change the call, DeMeco would adjust and then Drew Brees would change it again and DeMeco would shift the defense. It was literally a battle of the minds. You talk about watching the movie, ‘Gladiator.’ It was like that line, ‘Are you not entertained?’ DeMeco matched every move Drew came up with. It was incredible.”

Ryans, the architect of the San Francisco 49ers’ top-ranked defense, is now tasked with kick-starting a franchise that has had three consecutive losing seasons and finished 3-13-1 last year under former coach Lovie Smith.

“I think he’s going to be awesome,” Johnson said. “I think he’s going to bring the same way he played to the forefront of the Texans organization. It’s going to be great to have one of our own homegrown players leading the team. I can’t wait to see what he does with this team.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and