COLUMBIA – Jadeveon Clowney heard just about everything during the 2014 NFL draft season.
On Thursday night, the two-time All-American became the second South Carolina player to be selected No. 1 in the draft when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell opened the annual ceremony by announcing the Houston Texans had made the former Gamecocks defensive end their pick.
"It feels great," Clowney told ESPN. "I'm glad to be a part of the organization. I'm ready to get to work, be in the NFL and play some football."
Clowney's selection came 33 years after USC Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers was selected No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Saints.
Clowney, a Rock Hill native who was called "a once in every 20-25 years player" by draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., has been considered the best player in the draft for months. But he had a rocky time with the label.
This past season, he had only 3½ sacks, and he heard criticism of both his heart and drive as he prepared for the draft. USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said he never questioned anything about Clowney.
"I think Jadeveon will be a great player in the NFL," Ward said recently. "He can adapt to whatever scheme he is placed in. He can play virtually any position and he always played hard for us."
Clowney, who was rated the No. 1 high school player in the nation when committed to the Gamecocks, long ago set being the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft as a goal.
In recent days the Texans threw out smoke signals that they were considering University of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. Few were buying it, however, including other NFL teams.
Houston owner Robert McNair, a USC alumnus, was consistently effusive in his praise of Clowney.
"He is a remarkable player," McNair said recently. "He's one of these players that's really a once in every 10 years kind of physical specimen that comes along."
Texans coach Bill O'Brien attended USC's Pro Day to watch Clowney's work out and then talk with him. Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel worked the former USC defensive end out that day as well.
Clowney, who will wear the No. 90 for the Texans, appears eager to prove himself to his doubters.
"I'm going to go out there and work hard for the Texans," he told NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders. "I know what I can do on the field. I'm going to go out there and prove to those guys who have been doubting me and just work."