NEW YORK - For nearly 3 years, Jadeveon Clowney couldn't wait to get to the NFL, and the league was just as eager to add the player some called the best defensive prospect in a decade.
No surprise: Clowney is the Texans' man.
But last night's first pick of the 2014 NFL draft didn't come without some intrigue about how it would all turn out. There had been criticism of Clowney's work ethic last season and questions about whether the Texans would hold or trade the No. 1 slot.
"I've just been proving a lot of people wrong throughout my life," Clowney said. "Growing up, I grew up hard. I always said I'm going to do something great. Hopefully, I'm going to be a Hall of Famer one day."
Houston will take that.
Rarely does a team not reveal the top overall choice until it is announced, and there was wide speculation the Texans had soured on the defensive end, whose junior season at South Carolina was accompanied by criticism that he played it safe to stay healthy for the pros.
"It's been a long time. It just kicked in at the end there, man, I've been drafted," he said.
Clowney, 21, brings size, speed and power to a lineup that already has 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. His diligence had been questioned after he slipped from 13 sacks to just three in 2013.
He is the first defensive player taken first overall since Houston selected another end, Mario Williams, in 2006.
Tackle Greg Robinson, whose blocking helped high-powered Auburn make the national championship game, went second to St. Louis. The Rams owned the pick from a 2012 trade with Washington that allowed the Redskins to draft QB Robert Griffin III.
The first quarterback to go went to Jacksonville in the third slot, but it wasn't Johnny Football. Blake Bortles of Central Florida, whose stock shot up last season and in subsequent workouts, was taken ahead of Texas A&M sensation Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.
Seeing a chance to grab playmaking receiver Sammy Watkins of Clemson, Buffalo swapped spots with Cleveland, also sending a first- and fourth-round selection next year to move up from ninth to fourth.
Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews, the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, went to Atlanta with the sixth overall pick. Another Aggies star was chosen next, receiver Mike Evans to Tampa Bay. The 6-4, 231-pound Evans is durable, versatile - and quite emotional. He also couldn't hold back the tears when Goodell called his name.
The crowd thought Manziel might go eighth when Cleveland traded up one spot to get Minnesota's pick. So when the Browns took cornerback Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State, there was a loud groan from the fans.
Minnesota grabbed UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Detroit selected North Carolina's Eric Ebron, by far the best tight end in this crop, and Tennessee filled a need on the offensive line with Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan.
Finally, a local team was on the clock and the audience approved lustily when the Giants chose LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr.