Jadeveon Clowney said hello to Houston, when the Texans spent the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on Thursday to land the South Carolina junior defensive end.
The Texans used their full 10-minute allotment before handing in the selection to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but it was expected to be Clowney despite Houston's great need for a quarterback. It won't take much time at all for on-field expectations to reach unrealistic levels for Clowney, but the 21-year-old is accustomed to other-worldly visions for potential.
The Texans held the No. 1 overall pick for the third time in franchise history. Houston drafted defensive end Mario Williams in 2006 and quarterback David Carr in 2002.
Owner Bob McNair, a South Carolina alumnus, said multiple times -- including this week -- Clowney was the best player in the draft. Some viewed that as bait in the water from a franchise outwardly trolling for a trade partner, but the potential for greatness is undeniable with the 6-foot-5, 266-pound phenom.
"He is a remarkable player. He's one of these players that's really a once-in-every-10-years kind of physical specimen that comes along," McNair said.
Clowney runs the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and 10-yard split of 1.55 seconds -- his official time was announced at 4.53 at the Scouting Combine. He has an 83-inch wingspan, broad jumps 10 feet, 5 inches and has a 37.5-inch vertical, the kind of natural traits that sparked some scouts to make extreme comparisons of Clowney -- to Hall of Famers Bruce Smith and Lawrence Taylor, among other.
"I love to watch him. I think I can do what he did - run around a lot of guys, make a lot of plays, even though you can't hit like they were hitting back then," Clowney said of the comparison to LT.
Based on talent alone, Clowney could have been the first player drafted in 2013. Due to NFL rules, he wasn't eligible and perhaps coasted through his junior season. That was the public perception. But coach Gamecocks Steve Spurrier, who didn't deny an average work ethic and compared Clowney to former first-round pick Jevon Kearse, said there were times the Gamecocks took him off the field at practice knowing the offense couldn't handle him.
Not many blockers could, at least in his All-American sophomore season. Clowney led the nation with 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting. The precipitous decline in output in 2013 to 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks pulled critics out of the woodwork to take Clowney to task for questionable effort and intensity.
"I'm going to go out there and work hard for the Texans," Clowney told NFL Network's Deion Sanders after shaking hands with Goodell at the podium. "I know what I can do on the field. I'm going to go out there and prove it to these guys who have been doubting me, and just work."
Texans coach Bill O'Brien, whose background is offense with the New England Patriots and at Penn State, said at Clowney's April Pro Day workout in Columbia, S.C., that the Texans had "absolutely no concerns" about work ethic.
The Texans are banking on Clowney guiding a rapid turnaround. Houston had 31 sacks last season and Wade Phillips' defense finished seventh overall, but surrendered big plays too often and gave up almost four touchdowns per game (24th in the NFL).
With All-Pro left defensive end J.J. Watt, the 11th overall pick in 2011, drawing near-constant double team blocks and first-round picks at two linebacker positions -- Brian Cushing inside and Whitney Mercilus at right outside 'backer -- defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel could assemble a fearsome defensive front.
Clowney was a defensive end at South Carolina, and projects to outside linebacker in the Texans' "multiple" defense that emphasizes a three-down linemen front. Watt is also adept at sliding inside on pass-rushing downs.
Crennel utilized Willie McGinest, the fourth overall pick in 1994 and a 6-5, 270-pound defensive end convert, as a pass rusher (86 career sacks), but did so in an era in which three- and four-wide receiver spread offense style formations were the exception. Today, they are the norm.
Clowney's athleticism is undisputable. In this defense where he is asked to trail a tight end in coverage or meet a running back on a wheel route, his potential impact must be measured in projecting how he assimilates this unfamiliar role.
With Watt, a noted strong leader by example with the rare athletic traits to match Clowney, the hope in Houston is Clowney takes to becoming a professional and franchise face as Watt did to maximize his skills and help lift the Texans out of the AFC South cellar.
That begins with chasing, and bringing down, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.