Jadeveon Clowney set a goal for himself back in training camp. He wanted to be healthy and available to play every Sunday.
"That was one of my goals coming into this season," Clowney said. "I told you all that in camp. Just achieving my goals and just playing all 16 for the first time. I did that this season. I feel pretty good leaving after this season so get ready to take a couple of weeks off and get back to training and get ready for next season."
Being healthy has been a long road for the former No. 1 overall draft pick. After injuring his knee in the Texans 2014 season opener against Washington, Clowney saw action in just four games with two starts his rookie year. Nearly nine months later, he worked his way back from a major microfracture knee surgery to play 13 games with nine starts in 2015. Last year, he switched to defensive end and started 14 games and both postseason contests, notching his first NFL interception in the AFC Wild Card game against Oakland.
"There's no doubt that he's making the progress that we want," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He got hurt in the Washington Redskins game. I could see I happen right in front of me when he jumped up to bat the ball. That's what lead to the first knee surgery. Then the next year, it was concussion in the Denver scrimmage. Sports hernia was in there somewhere. There were a lot of things going on. I think the last two years, he's been fairly healthy. I mean, banged up but fairly healthy."
This year, Clowney's health was even more critical for a Texans defense without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Clowney, listed as questionable during a few weeks in December, still started all 16 games and earned Pro Bowl honors after setting single-season career highs in sacks (9.5), tackles for loss (21), quarterback hits (21), forced fumbles (2), fumble recoveries (two), total tackles (59).
The season may not have ended how Clowney envisioned, but it didn't take away his ability to enjoy the game.
"He's got a great personality in that locker room," O'Brien said. "He has a lot of fun playing the game. He played 16 games, which I think is a huge accomplishment for him. I think, like I said, I think he's got a bright future, a real bright future moving forward."
Clowney finished second in the NFL in tackles for loss and was the first AFC player since 2015 with 20-or-more tackles for loss and 20-or-more quarterback hits in a season (J.J. Watt and Raiders DE Khalil Mack).
Check out some of the best photos of Jadeveon Clowney during his Pro Bowl season in 2017.