This fall the Houston Texans are betting that 23-year-old rookie Earl Mitchell will turn heads on the field. At six two and three hundred pounds, the defensive tackle will certainly intimidate quarterbacks, but it’s his speed—he can run the 40 in 4.75 seconds—that will surprise them. The Houston native recently settled into a condo that’s just five minutes from Reliant Stadium. And while the new furniture and decor may be the trappings of success, they were the stuff dreams were made of during a childhood that had him shuffling between relatives’ couches. “It wasn’t the easiest surroundings,” says Mitchell. Not only has his home life changed but so has his diet. He has replaced the fast food he craves with more-healthful options from Whole Foods Market. Occasionally Mitchell buys seafood, but he sheepishly admits that he still needs to work on his cooking skills.

Above the refrigerator

• I have to have something in my stomach every morning before I leave the house, and it’s usually cereal.

• Everyone on the team eats wheat bread. So I switched over recently.

• My grandmother was very important to me. She taught me manners and how to keep myself neat and tidy.

On the shelf

• I can’t tell the difference between this milk and regular, so I just drink the one that’s better for me.

• With the humidity here, sometimes it’s just better to drink Gatorade than water.

• I started eating more fruit when I was training for the combine.

In the door

• One of the few things I know how to cook. Sometimes I put cheese on them.

• I always have both mayo and mustard on my turkey sandwiches. I also put lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, and pickles on there.

• I drink OJ with my meals. I like SunnyD, but I try to stay away from it.

• I’m from Texas. I love barbecue.

• I could eat strawberry-jelly sandwiches all day. This is what I eat instead of Shipley Do-Nuts. They’re my weakness.