NEW YORK — For nearly three 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 Thursday’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.”

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Houston will take that.

This draft’s other big name, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, sat with a sullen look on his face until Cleveland made its third trade of the round and grabbed the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner at No. 22. To rousing cheers and chants of “Johnny, Johnny,” Manziel smiled widely as he walked onto the Radio City Music Hall stage.

“If you call it a slide, I wouldn’t call it that at all,” he said. “I was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.

“It’s a great story. It’s great for me to end up there, at a team that has fans that are as passionate as I am on the field.”

Manziel’s wait added plenty of intrigue nearly three hours after the Texans took their time selecting Clowney. 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 he played it safe to stay healthy for the pros.

After commissioner Roger Goodell announced the pick, fans filling Radio City Music Hall to capacity applauded Clowney as he held up his index finger, his eyes moist, a relieved look on his face. Just like the 30 prospects on hand, the fans were extra eager to see who would wind up where after the draft was pushed back from late April because the theater was unavailable.

“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. Clowney’s 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. Williams now is with Buffalo.

Tackle Greg Robinson, whose blocking helped high-powered Auburn make the national championship game last season, went second to St. Louis. The Rams owned the pick as the final payment for a 2012 trade with Washington that allowed the Redskins to draft 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. At 6-5, 232, Bortles drew comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger because of his combination of size and mobility.

Sherman: NFL not big on racial sensitivity

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman doesn’t believe that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would stand up to an owner the way his NBA counterpart, Adam Silver, did when he banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for making racist comments.

Asked in an interview with Time Magazine whether he thought Goodell would take the same stance as Silver, who has been widely praised for his decision to rid the NBA of Sterling, Sherman said, “No, I don’t.”

Sherman said the league already dropped the ball on racial sensitivity with the way it has handled the debate about the Washington Redskins’ name.

“Because we have an NFL team called the Redskins,” Sherman said, “I don’t think the NFL really is as concerned as they show. The NFL is more of a bottom-line league. If it doesn’t affect their bottom line, they’re not as concerned.”

Sherman pointed to the criticism he endured after his nationally televised rant following the NFC Championship Game.

“There’s a lot of racism still alive and still active,” Sherman said. “And it just forced America to rethink it once again, and to really, really understand that racism isn’t gone. We have to actively push it out. And snuff it out.”

NFL draft first round
No. Player
1. Houston DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2. St. Louis OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
3. Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
4. Buffalo WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
5. Oakland OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
6. Atlanta OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
7. Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
8. Cleveland CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
9. Minnesota OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
10. Detroit TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
11. Tennessee OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
12. NY Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
13. St. Louis DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
14. Chicago CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
15. Pittsburgh OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
16. Dallas OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
17. Baltimore LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
18. NY Jets S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
19. Miami OT Ju’Wuan James, Tennessee
20. New Orleans WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
21. Green Bay S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
22. Cleveland QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
23. Kansas City DE Dee Ford, Auburn
24. Cincinnati CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
25. San Diego CB Jason Verrett, TCU
26. Philadelphia DE Marcus Smith, Louisville
27. Arizona S Deone Bucannon, Washington State
28. Carolina WR, Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
29. New England DE Dominique Easley, Florida
30. San Francisco S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
31. Denver CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
32. Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville