By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON -- At 20 years old, Amobi Okoye is the youngest man to play in the NFL in 40 years.
So it came as no surprise that Houston's rookie defensive tackle played like a "young kid" in his first game, according to his coach. His improvement in Week 2 shouldn't be a surprise, either, considering the success he's had as the youngest player at every level of his career.
Okoye, who started high school at 12 and college at 16, had four tackles, including two sacks, and forced a fumble in Houston's 34-21 win over Carolina on Sunday.
That's exactly what the Texans were looking for when they drafted the then-19-year-old with the 10th pick out of Louisville. Okoye, who had 55 tackles and eight sacks last season, is the rare interior lineman with pass-rushing ability.
"He's an explosive guy," coach Gary Kubiak said. "When he gets off of a block, that space that he covers getting to the quarterback, he covers it awfully quick."
Houston desperately needed to get to the quarterback quicker after ranking 27th in the NFL in sacks last season. Not only is Okoye getting sacks, but he's getting them at critical times. The two against Carolina came on third down.
"He just played with a little more confidence his second time out," Kubiak said a week after saying Okoye played like a "young kid." "He was a factor knocking the ball out. He's only going to get better, in our opinion, and he definitely made a lot of improvement from Week 1 to 2."
Okoye, who graduated in 3 1/2 years with a degree in psychology, has a quiet confidence that belies his age.
"Part of me is amazed, and the other part can't be amazed because you've got to expect to do things like this," he said of his progress.
He expects to do even more.
"I won't get satisfied now at all. Hopefully I can conquer the world, but it's still a long way to go," he said, dragging out the word "long" for emphasis.
The 6-foot-1, 300-pound rookie is starting on a line that features last year's top overall pick, Mario Williams, and 2005 first-round selection Travis Johnson.
Kubiak said the improvement of Williams and the rest of the line will speed Okoye's development.
"They're getting better and we were able to move guys around," Kubiak said. "It's not affecting them as much as it may have in the past when we move Mario and some of those people around. So I just think the group's gaining some confidence and we can try to keep fresh people on the field, and if we can do that, then we should have a chance to be effective."
Williams said Okoye "changes up the scheme of everything."
"It kind of keeps it uneven so the offense can't just key on one person," he said.
The Texas are looking for Okoye to improve his play against the run, though Kubiak said he's handling those responsibilities "better than we thought he would."
If he improves, the Texans, who are allowing the third fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL, should be even tougher.
Okoye said the move from college to the NFL has been the toughest of his early jumps.
"You come from college and you're thinking you're going to be able to do the same thing you did in college and ball in the NFL," he said, "but it's easier said than done."
He said his adjustment to life in the NFL off the field has been helped by his brother and a cousin moving to Houston to live with him.
"I couldn't even imagine if they weren't here with me how the transition would have been like," he said. "It's been a great help."