Lamarr Houston is one of the most versatile defenders in the NFL. But before he was the best player on the Oakland Raiders defense, he was a leader on the defensive line at the University of Texas.
Houston played a different position at every level of football. Growing up in Colorado Springs, he was a high school running back and linebacker. He signed across state lines as one of the top three prospects from the state of Colorado in the high school class of 2006. He had one major issue with his physical profile in high school: he lacked long speed. Running back wasn’t a great position for him at the next level.
Following the lead of Henry Melton, a player who Texas flipped to defense from the running back position, the Longhorns tried Lamarr Houston at defensive end as a freshman. He started multiple games there over his first two seasons, but his career with Texas really took off as a junior when Texas bumped him inside to defensive tackle. As a one-gap disruptive DT, Houston started to rack up the numbers.
More and more players who start off on offense are making the transition to defense. Top NFL draft prospect Anthony Barr was a running back at UCLA before moving to defense to terrorize pass rushers. Houston had to make a couple stops along the way at UT, but found a home on the defensive interior, just feet away from where he lined up in high school (at linebacker).
Houston was one of the Longhorns to really show up in the National Championship Game against Alabama in January 2010. He put on good weight after the season, and measured in at 305 lbs at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. He ran 4.84 at that weight, which was faster than he timed as a high school running back (standard caveats about reported high school times apply here). That time caught the eye of Al Davis, patriarch owner of the Raiders, who traded back to draft Houston in the second round in the 2010 draft.
Davis was one of perhaps one person who saw Houston as a defensive end in his defense, and so that’s where he started in Week 1 of his rookie season. Al Davis passed away a month into Houston’s second season. After two pro seasons, Houston gained a reputation as a disruptive end who had 6 sacks as a defensive end in two seasons. The new Oakland defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver, did what everyone thought with Houston coming out of the draft…actually, he did no such thing. In 2012, Lamarr Houston started to play a wide nine technique from a two point stance, effectively reaching back into his linebacker days.
Houston just wrapped up his best pro season in 2013, sacking the QB six times. He is scheduled to hit free agency two weeks from now, where the versatility he put on display in the pros and at Texas will be his money maker. Houston is the third rated pass rusher on the market behind Greg Hardy and Brian Orakpo, both who may receive the franchise tag. Houston is a candidate for Oakland’s franchise tag as well.
Calling Houston as pass rusher undersells him as a football player based on his sack production. As Texas fans know, he is a disruptive force and a big game performer. Any attempt to limit or define his role to a single position is missing the true value of Lamarr Houston.