It was almost 2 1/2 hours later before Johnny Manziel heard his name called.
The Texans took Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick in NFL Draft on Thursday night, making the South Carolina pass rusher the first defensive player taken in the top spot since the last time they had were in the position eight years ago.
Manziel, the firebrand Texas A&M quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner whose draft future filled headlines for months, ended up going No. 22 to the Cleveland Browns, who traded up with the Philadelphia Eagles to get him.
Social media buzzed earlier in the evening in anticipation the Dallas Cowboys might select Manziel with the No. 16 pick, keeping the former Texas high school player of the year in his home state.
"It was tough," Manziel said of his wait in an interview with NFL Network, "but I went into this saying whatever team wanted me it would be the right situation for me. ..
"I'm just going to play my heart out for this team."
Clowney was taken ahead of Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, picked by the St. Louis Rams at No. 2.
Central Florida's Blake Bortles was the first quarterback selected, going to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was the last pick of the round, going No. 32 to the Minnesota Vikings after they made a trade with Seattle.
But there were more defensive backs taken than any other position, nine in all.
Houston's pick ended a seven-year streak of offensive players being selected No. 1 since the Texans took defensive end Mario Williams to start the 2006 draft.
Clowney was the second South Carolina player picked No. 1 after running back George Rogers, who taken by the New Orleans Saints in 1981 after winning the Heisman Trophy.
The 6-foot-6 Clowney had 24 sacks in three years for the Gamecocks, including 13 in 2012, when he finished sixth in voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Texans general manager Rick Smith said the team talked about trading out of the No. 1 spot if there was a deal worth moving on.
In the end, there wasn't, and Smith said they felt confident taking Clowney.
"He's an impact player," said Texans general manager Rick Smith. "We always talk about adding those types of athletes to our organization and he certainly fits the bill."
Clowney will join Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt to form a scary pass rush for a team that ended last season on a franchise-worst 14-game losing streak.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Clowney. "I've been watching him since I was in college and now I get to play beside him, so that makes it even better for me, helps me to improve my game to where I want to be, take my game to the next level. I'm just looking forward to getting to learn from him."
The Buffalo Bills traded up five places to take Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 4 in a deal with Cleveland that included giving away a first- round pick next year. The Oakland Raiders then selected Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 5.
A couple of Manziel's teammates were top-10 picks. Tackle Jake Matthews, the son of NFL Hall-of-Famer Bruce Matthews, went No. 6 to the Atlanta Falcons and wide receiver Mike Evans was taken No. 7 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Browns made another trade, this time with Minnesota, and moved up one spot to No. 8 for Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. The Vikings, who got a fifth-round pick in the deal, took UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr at No. 9 and the Detroit Lions selected North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron to round out the top 10.
Ebron was drafted hours after he proposed to his girlfriend atop the Empire State Building. His name was called by legendary Lions running back Barry Sanders.
This year's draft was moved back two weeks because of a scheduling conflict at Radio City Music Hall that may persist into the future, leading Goodell to say last year that if the league wants to have the draft in April again, it might have to look into holding it in other cities or venues.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday that close to a dozen cities had already expressed interest in hosting the draft.
Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan went 11th to the Titans followed by LSU receiver Odell Beckham to the Giants, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald to the Rams and Virginia Tech corner Kyle Fuller to the Bears.
Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley was taken 17th by the Ravens, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor went to the Jets, Tennessee tackle Ja'Wuan James was picked by the Dolphins and Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks landed with the Saints, who traded up seven places with the Cardinals for the 20th pick.
The Packers nabbed Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at No. 21, one spot ahead of the pick initially held by the Eagles, whom Clinton-Dix had asked to take him, admitting during a TV interview that he texted a team official.
Following Manziel, the remaining picks were Auburn DE Dee Ford (Chiefs), Michigan State C Darqueze Dennard (Bengals), TCU CB Jason Verrett (Chargers), Louisville DE Marcus Smith (Eagles), Washington State S Deone Bucannon (Cardinals), Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers), Florida DT Dominique Easley (Patriots), Northern Illinois S Jimmie Ward (49ers), Ohio State CB Bradley Roby (Broncos) and Bridgewater.