- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2014

It’s been nearly a decade since Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo played in front of his home crowd.

The last time he played a game in Houston in Dec. 2005, Orakpo was a 19-year-old freshman at Texas and the Longhorns were playing Colorado in the Big 12 championship game.

Vince Young started at quarterback. Jamaal Charles started at running back. The Longhorns trounced Colorado, 70-3, and went on to win the national championship that season.

“I forget what year that was,” Orakpo said. “It was a while ago.”

Much has changed since then. As the Redskins prepare for their season-opener against the Houston Texans on Sunday, Orakpo is preparing for his sixth professional season. He is 28 years old now, a three-time Pro Bowler who signed a franchise tag tender with Washington in March. And he can’t wait to go home.

“I’m going to try to treat it as normal [a] game as possible, you know?” Orakpo said. “I know it’s going to be a lot of people there rooting me on and stuff of that nature. It’s going to be fun, you know?”

Orakpo’s Texas roots run deep. He was born in Houston and starred in the city at Lamar High School, where the team’s name was recently changed from the Redskins to the Texans. Orakpo said he had “no feeling” about the change.

“I still have to root my school on,” he said, “regardless what their name is.”

Orakpo grew up about 15 minutes away from Reliant Stadium, which has since been renamed NRG Stadium. When it came time to pick a college, he opted for Texas, a mere two-hour drive west of his home.

With all of his ties to the area, Orakpo expected the large number of ticket requests that he has received. But that hasn’t made it any easier to deal with them.

“It’s always hard, but you’ve got to have a limit someway, somehow,” Orakpo said. “They better not wear any Texans gear because I’m going to be extremely pissed. They already know how I roll.”

As excited as Orakpo is to finally play a game in his hometown, that excitement will likely dissipate when he takes the field and has to deal with Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and the rest of the Texans’ offense. Orakpo said slowing down Foster will be the key.

“They’ve got a lot of playmakers,” Orakpo said. “The running game – we’ve got to stop Arian Foster. He’s the source of that offense. … We just have to stop the running game and then we can hopefully get a chance to go after it.”

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