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Where Are They Now? DL Ray Childress

Posted Apr 1, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ray Childress has traded one oil derrick for another but hasn’t stopped leading a team.

Childress served as a captain in nine of his 11 seasons with the Houston Oilers. The All-Pro selection made five Pro Bowls and provided leadership to squads that made the playoffs seven straight seasons (1987-93).

After leading a successful group of automotive dealerships for 10 years and enjoying limited partnership status with the Houston Texans, Childress founded Childress Directional Drilling in 2011 to build on the great relationships he’s developed over the years. His company deploys advanced tools and fuel engineers to oil wells on land and offshore to execute a plan that’s been developed with geologists to maximize the potential of each well.

“Having great tools and having great people,” is the key to the business, Childress said, adding that he receives some comments about the oil connection between his playing career and his current endeavor.

“Our logo is an oil derrick, obviously, and I was fortunate enough to wear an oil derrick on the helmet for 11 seasons, so that’s good stuff,” Childress said.

Ray Childress was selected to five Pro Bowls and served as captain in nine of 11 seasons with the Houston Oilers. Click here for a slideshow of his career.

Childress was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., but moved to Dallas in high school because of his father’s career in construction. Texas has proven to be a lasting home for Childress, even if “people in Houston just don’t know how good barbecue is in Memphis.”

He starred collegiately at Texas A&M where he set a school record for most tackles by a lineman (360) and was selected in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft with the third overall pick.

Another former first-round pick, Hall of Fame offensive lineman and current Titans offensive line coach Bruce Matthews welcomed Childress to the NFL on the practice field. The memories of those times still invoke a laugh and joke from Childress.

“Well, I blame Bruce Matthews for my slow development, my slow pass rushing ability because I had to go against him every day in practice my rookie season,” Childress said. “He was playing right tackle, and I was playing left defensive end, and Bruce was so good I just never had any success against him at rushing the passer, but they had to move him inside to guard, so I could at least get to the passer every once in a while in practice. So, I blame him for only getting four or five sacks my rookie season.”

The sacks did come, however, and started piling up: Childress ranks second in franchise history with 74.5 career sacks.

The tally is more impressive in the context of Childress switching from left defensive end in a 3-4 scheme in his first five seasons to left defensive tackle in a 4-3 for his final six seasons with Houston. Childress was willing to make that switch for the good of the team, which also had defensive ends William Fuller and Sean Jones. Childress followed the switch with four straight Pro Bowls and his All-Pro season of 1992 in which he led the Oilers with a career-high 13 sacks.   

All jokes aside, Childress said he has “the highest respect for both Bruce and (Titans coach and former teammate) Mike (Munchak) as football players and people. The Tennessee Titans are in good hands.”

Childress said his favorite memory of his time with the Oilers was in 1993 when the team rallied from a 1-4 start with a franchise-record 11 straight wins.

“We just had a wonderful team with wonderful players,” he recalled. “That was a really great time.”

Unlike Matthews and Munchak, Childress said he was not interested in coaching at the professional level. He did, however, coach his four children on dozens of youth league teams. His oldest son Wells is a defensive lineman who made the All-Academic Ivy League team at Columbia, daughter Sloan is studying interior design at TCU, son Ford is a redshirt freshman QB at West Virginia, and son Knox is a DE/LB at Kincaid High School.

In addition to continuing to raise his children and lead his directional drilling team, Childress and his wife Kara want to continue their work on The Ray Childress Foundation, which has awarded more than $1.7 million in scholarships and leadership awards to young men and women.

“Houston was so supportive of me, both at Texas A&M and with the Houston Oilers, I just felt like it would be a sin if I didn’t give back to the community that supported me,” said Childress, adding that he hopes the recipients will pay their successes forward.

Childress said he enjoyed his 10 years in the automotive industry during which his dealerships retailed more than 100,000 new and used cars and the unique opportunity to be a limited partner in the Houston Texans (which he’s since sold). Childress said there were no surprises on the investment side of the NFL, but it was a little different to wear a sport coat instead of shoulder pads on Sundays.

Childress said he still appreciates the opportunity he had to do the latter for Titans/Oilers Owner K.S. “Bud” Adams, Jr.

“I wish Mr. Adams nothing but the very best. Being able to play for him 11 years, he always treated me with the utmost respect and honesty, and I really appreciate that,” Childress said. “Mr. Adams and Lamar Hunt started the American Football League in 1960. Talk about forward thinkers and getting things done. That’s big stuff right there.”

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