Chicago Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston has learned you really only need three things in order to succeed:
1) The ability to believe in yourself even when others don’t.
2) The ability to adapt when circumstances change.
3) The willingness to work tirelessly when things get hard.
The first lesson came at him toward the end of his time at Thomas Doherty High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was a decorated running back and defensive end.
During his career there, Houston ran for more than 3,300 yards and scored 49 touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, he racked up more than 200 tackles. He played well enough to be named a four-star recruit and to earn a scholarship to the University of Texas.
Yet even in his hometown, doubters remained. “When I went to college, everybody from my hometown thought that would be the last stop for me,” Houston says. “But I was determined.”
As a Longhorn, Houston refused to think of himself as a longshot to make the NFL. He bought into a team strength coach’s philosophy of HAW—Hard Ass Work. The extra time in the weight room paid off. Houston started 33 of 50 games during his career at Texas, and he was ranked one of the top defensive tackles in the country.
The Oakland Raiders selected Houston in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. That’s when his ability to adapt got put to the test. After playing as a defensive tackle for so many years at Texas, Houston was asked by the Raiders to start at left defensive end.
After signing with Chicago in 2014, Houston switched positions yet again. Today he plays outside linebacker for the Bears.
Houston had to lose weight to make the move. He has shed more than 31 pounds since college, slimming down from 305 to 274 pounds today.
Since turning pro, Houston has stuck to his HAW approach in the gym. He works with trainer Travelle Gaines, who prescribes tough workouts that challenge his strength and explosiveness. Then, the Bear defender takes them a step further by wearing a Training Mask throughout the session. The thick black mask covers his nose and mouth, mimicking elevation training by restricting his air intake and forcing him to work harder on every breath.
Last season, his sixth as a pro, Houston’s weight room efforts and dietary discipline paid off in a big way. It was his best so far, as he amassed eight sacks in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense.
Through it all, Houston says his doubters are a big reason why he’s been able to achieve success. He says, “Every time somebody told me I couldn’t do it, it’s been the key to me progressing forward.”
Follow the inspiring stories of other pro and high school athletes proving their doubters wrong at #SayICant.
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