Jadeveon Clowney of the South Carolina Gamecocks is introduced during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on May 8, 2014 in New York City
Jadeveon Clowney only knew for sure that the Houston Texans would take him with the No. 1 overall pick three minutes before their clock expired — when they called him to tell him so.
Then the tears fell from Clowney’s eyes as he realized a scenario he’d predicted years before.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed,” Clowney said, according to ESPN.com. “I’m feeling great right now. It’s just a blessing, man. I appreciate it. I’m just glad to be a part of the Houston Texans.”
The Texans made Clowney the first defensive player selected first overall since they took defensive end Mario Williams in 2006.
The similarities don’t stop there — Clowney will wear No. 90, the same number Williams wore before leaving the Texans in free agency after the 2011 season.
“I think I have a lot to prove to people,” Clowney said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to, proving a lot of people wrong. I’m just ready to get down and get going with the Houston Texans.”
Clowney joins a Houston team that finished 2013 on a 14-game losing streak, that has a brand new coach and still has uncertainty at quarterback. Texans coach Bill O’Brien said the team will draft a QB at some point.
But while three quarterbacks were selected in Thursday’s opening round, the Texans didn’t trade back into the round to get one.
The Texans considered trading the top pick, and remained open to the prospect throughout the process. But their asking price was steep.
“At the end of the day, that never materialized,” Texans general manager Rick Smith said. “We always felt very confident in the selection. And so we were very bullish in what we were asking for because we felt so good about the pick.”
Jadeveon Clowney of the South Carolina Gamecocks stands on stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was picked #1 overall by the Houston Texans during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on May 8, 2014 in New York City
Although Houston thought an offer might come while it was on the clock, none did, making its decision clear.
Though some questioned Clowney’s work ethic, the Texans never did. They didn’t see it on film, and took as confirmation the word of strength coach Craig Fitzgerald, who worked with the star pass-rusher at South Carolina.
“Did he play with his hair on fire every single snap? No,” Smith said. “But do we worry about his work ethic? We don’t at all. We think this guy will come in … he’s ready to work. After the selection, he talked about wanting to come in and work. This guy’s motivated. He’s extremely motivated. He wants to be great.”
The 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive end left high school as the No. 1-ranked player and shattered a South Carolina record for sacks, notching 13 in 2012. His 24 career sacks in three seasons rank third all time for the school, and he left college ranked fifth for forced fumbles and tackles for loss among active FBS players.
Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks in action during their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Orlando, Florida
Clowney has played defensive end throughout his football career, but the Texans will ask him to play outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 system. They’re excited about not only Clowney’s pass-rushing skill, but also his ability to set the edge against the run.
“I’m pretty athletic and I know I can play anywhere,” Clowney said. “Whatever they want me to do, I’m willing to do to work at it.”
Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel has experience with the transition Clowney will be asked to make, and he’s already let Clowney know he will coach him hard.
The St. Louis Rams selected Auburn offensive lineman Greg Robinson with the second overall pick, while the Jacksonville Jaguars took Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles at No. 3.
The Buffalo Bills moved up five spots to pick Sammy Watkins at No. 4 overall, sending the ninth overall selection and their 2015 first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in order to nab the Clemson star wide receiver. Cleveland also received Buffalo’s fourth-round pick in 2015.
It was one of three trades Thursday involving the Browns, who also moved up four spots from No. 26 to 22 to use their second first-round pick on Johnny Manziel, the polarizing former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.
The Oakland Raiders rounded out the top five by selecting linebacker Khalil Mack.