Charles Omenihu hoisted plenty of heavy metal this summer and acquired a taste for broccoli, embracing the power of nutrition to transform his body.
The Texans’ second-year defensive end looks a lot different in his uniform now. He’s bigger and more powerful after building a lot of lean muscle following an offseason devoted to a stricter diet and exercise regimen.
Omenihu became more serious in his commitment to football, and it started in the kitchen. The former University of Texas standout even hired a personal chef, who traveled with him for his workouts in Austin and Dallas following his rookie season.
Because he has a tendency to get light during the season, the 6-5, 282-pound Rowlett native is sticking with a routine that works for him. He also enlisted the help of retired Pro Bowl pass rusher DeMarcus Ware to upgrade his repertoire of moves.
“What I did to gain weight was just really dedicate myself on my eating habits,” Omenihu said during a Zoom video call. “Just lifting hard, man. Understanding that I have a goal and I have to reach that goal. Guys are depending on me to be a certain kind of player.
“So that was in my mind every day I stepped in the weight room and every day I had a session with Ware for technique work. Then, just being on myself about my weight, because that’s something that I just have to be on steadily because it can drop. That’s what I was really focused on.”
Following an encouraging rookie season, Omenihu hopes to range between 280 and 285 pounds this season and not fluctuate as much as he did last year. It helps a lot that Omenihu enjoys the healthy, tasty meals his chef whips up.
“The food that my chef would make that I really like would be like pasta, and he’s really, really good with making chicken,” Omenihu said. “I learned that I really like broccoli a lot, because I had to eat greens and really just dedicate myself to that.”
An NFL body isn’t built through broccoli, chicken and complex carbohydrates alone. Omenihu makes sure he indulges with an occasional cheat meal.
“Oh, man, pizza all the way,” Omenihu said. “I love pizza.”
A fifth-round draft pick last year, Omenihu played 441 defensive snaps as a rookie (41 percent overall) and recorded three sacks and two forced fumbles as he appeared in all but two games.
An increased role in the defensive line rotation is in the offing for the versatile Omenihu, a former Big 12 Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year.
“Charles has had a really good camp,” Texans coach and general manager Bill O’Brien said. “To me, he’s almost like a different player than he was last year. He’s stronger. He’s put weight on. His technique is better. He’s very focused. I think he’s definitely improved.
“He’s a unique player. He does a couple of things for us. He plays inside. He plays off the edge. He’s a powerful guy. He’s got good reach. He’s an athletic guy. He’s about 285 pounds, so he can do a couple of different things. I think he’s getting better and better.”
When Omenihu was a high school senior, his primary recruiter from Texas was Chris Rumph. The Longhorns’ assistant head coach and defensive line coach at the time, Rumph got to know Omenihu and his family well.
Rumph convinced Omenihu to attend Texas but later took a job at Florida. Now a first-year assistant on the Texans’ staff as their outside linebackers coach, Rumph marvels at the progression of Omenihu and sees him as a hungry, ascending player.
“I love Charles. What a wonderful young man,” Rumph said. “When I saw him for the first time, I was just amazed at how much he’s grown. He’s gotten so much bigger than he was when I first recruited him. He was just a big, tall, lanky, skinny kid, and now he’s grown into a young man. He looks really good, and I’m excited for him. The sky is the limit for him.
“I’m glad that he does have that chip on his shoulder, and I’m glad to see that he is pushing toward his goals and his dreams.”
Heading into his second NFL season, Omenihu has worked diligently to improve his staying power. He had 13 tackles, two tackles for losses, and two pass breakups last season. Omenihu is more difficult to budge on running plays now.
“Really, it just starts off with the run game, understanding that you can’t rush the passer unless you stop the run,” Omenihu said of what he’s learned from defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver. “He definitely made that a focal point for me as far as being a guy that can play the run.
“I just learned that I need to better my technique, obviously get stronger, put more weight on, and then understand that being a complete defensive lineman starts off with being a good run stopper. That guy on your shoulder that’s telling you you’re tired or you can’t go anymore, you’ve got to brush that off and keep going and keep fighting, because the other 10 guys on the field, they’re depending on you to do your job.”
Omenihu spent a lot of time training with Ware, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection who retired with 138½ sacks. They connected initially on Instagram after the draft last year, then got to know each other in Las Vegas at Von Miller’s pass-rushing summit.
“What I’ve learned from him, just enhancing what I’m good at and don’t steer away from what makes me me,” Omenihu said. “I think last year a lot of the things when I missed opportunities were basically because of my technique or trying to be somebody I’m not.”
Of course, Omenihu spent plenty of time quizzing defensive end and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. Omenihu’s best example of how to play the game shares a practice field and meetings with him every day.
“More so, I’ve been asking questions this year because we’ve been playing alongside each other a lot more,” Omenihu said. “It’s just like timing on things, why he’s doing this, or where his hands are on this move. Does he rip? Does he arm over? Those have been big things for me, and then trying to translate it to my game has been the biggest topics of conversation when I’m talking to him about technique.”
Omenihu is an ambitious player. He plans for success. That’s why he made the changes he instituted this offseason.
“I have extremely higher expectations for myself than probably the coaches do,” Omenihu said. “You have to push yourself to a limit that nobody else can push you to. You have to be self-motivated, self-driven, and I have all of that to a T. I mentally try to push myself every day and tell myself that, ‘You need to be better. You need to go harder.’”