The Houston Texans made Jadeveon Clowney the No. 1 selection in the NFL draft on Thursday night because of his ability to terrorize quarterbacks.
When it happened, the 6-foot-6, 276-pound defensive end couldn’t keep the tears from his eyes. Clowney emerged onto the Radio City Music Hall stage, raised his left hand and patted his chest twice before wrapping NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a long hug.
“I have been dreaming about this my whole life, and it kind of kicked in in the end,” Clowney said. “I am just overwhelmed with the situation. It’s a blessing to be in the NFL. To be the No. 1 pick is the greatest feeling in the world.”
Clowney has been considered the likely No. 1 pick in the draft since the end of his freshman season in Columbia, but that status was put into jeopardy by a junior season that featured three sacks, 10 fewer than he had his sophomore season. In the week before the draft, he began to wonder if the Texans were going to pass on him in favor of a quarterback, he said.
“You really don’t know,” he said.
He pledged to validate the Texans’ faith in him.
“I am ready to work and learn this game,” he said. “I really haven’t learned the game like I need to. I am 21. I am ready to learn this game so I can be great at it.”
Clowney, who will wear No. 90 for the Texans, wants to be the NFL’s Rookie of the Year, he said.
“Whatever it takes,” he said. “I set my expectations high on myself, higher than anybody expects of me. I am going to go in there and try to take care of my job.”
Clowney is the second former Gamecock to be selected No. 1, joining running back George Rogers, who was the top pick of the New Orleans Saints in 1981. Clowney was a two-time All-American at South Carolina, registering 24 sacks, 47 tackles-for-loss, nine forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in three collegiate seasons.
He became the third player from Rock Hill taken in the first round of the draft in the past three seasons, joining Gamecock cornerback Stephon Gilmore (2012) and Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (2013).
“You know there are a lot of guys come out of Rock Hill,” he said. “We do our thing.”
Another Rock Hill native and former Gamecock, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, will be Clowney’s teammate in Houston, as will safety D.J. Swearinger, who was selected out of South Carolina by the Texans last year.
“It’s going to feel like home,” Clowney said. “I am just ready to go in there and get started.”
When he arrives, he will be teamed with defensive lineman J.J. Watt, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. It’s a pairing media members in Houston have asked Clowney about throughout the draft process.
“I can’t describe it,” Clowney said Thursday. “You are going to have to watch. It’s going to be special.”