NEW YORK – The wait is over for Jadeveon Clowney.
As expected, the most talented player coming out of college football was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall.
"I grew up the hard way," Clowney said. "A lot of people said I would never be anything. I kept telling myself I'm going to be something great. I'm going to be a Hall of Famer one day."
And he belongs to the Houston Texans, ending the suspense for the possibility that a blockbuster trade could send Clowney elsewhere.
A 6-6, 270-pound defensive end from South Carolina, Clowney became the first defensive player chosen No. 1 overall since the Texans took defensive end Mario Williams in 2006.
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Following last year's pick by the Kansas City Chiefs of offensive tackle Eric Fisher, it marks the first time since 1996-97 that a quarterback was not taken with the top pick in consecutive years.
Clowney, for one, has been expecting this moment for months.
"Man, I've been dreaming about this my whole life. Bill O'Brien said, 'I'm sticking my neck out for you. You've got to stick your neck out for me.'" Clowney said. "I'm here to prove a lot of people wrong. A lot of people have been doubting me.''
As he reiterated on the eve of the draft, going No. 1 has long been a personal goal.
The biggest mystery, though, seemed to be whether another team – possibly the Atlanta Falcons or Buffalo Bills – could swing a trade that would allow them to land Clowney. Texans GM Rick Smith indicated in recent days that he was open to dealing the pick, and speculation about that possibility intensified in the days leading up to the draft.
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Now the question is whether Clowney – who has already been compared to some of the all-time greats and hailed as a once-in-a-generation prospect – can live up to the hype and expectations that come with his lofty status.
In the Texans' 3-4 defense, it's expected that he could convert to outside linebacker that will be fashioned around his tremendous skill as a pass-rusher.
"I get to learn from J.J. Watt and build my game up...Hopefully, I can take a lot of pressure off him, he can take a lot of pressure off me and we can meet at the quarterback," he said.
No doubt, Clowney has the physical tools. He likely cemented his draft position at the NFL combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds – fastest for any prospect over 265 pounds since 2006, according to ESPN research.
Now he's got fastest first step in the draft, too.
"I'm just overwhelmed to be in the NFL," Clowney said, "and to be the No. 1 pick, man, it's just the greatest feeling in the world.''
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