Vince Wilfork's presence in the locker room is felt by nearly everyone with the 12-year veteran doling out advice about football, life, and generally impressing with his humor and all-around athleticism.
Wilfork has a lot of fans in the Texans locker room from J.J. Watt calling himself a small puppy following the bigger dog to Brian Cushing admitting he's "excited" to play with him.
But there's one young player that the two-time Super Bowl winner has taken under his wing.
Wilfork's locker isn't next to Watt's or the defensive linemen. It's across the room next to Clowney. The two have bonded in Wilfork's short time with the team, even though the second-year outside linebacker was in rehab recovering from microfracture knee surgery during a bulk of the offseason. Maybe it's the physical proximity or the comeback story that even Texans fans have been following closely this offseason.
Either way, Wilfork has been rooting for Clowney. In fact, when asked about his locker neighbor, Wilfork smiled.
"My little son, little baby brother, he's everything," Wilfork said of Clowney. "You know what? He's a hard worker, and that's one thing I can respect about this team, not just JD, but I know a lot of times we have to talk to him because he's so eager, we wants to play, he wants to get out, he wants to do all this."
The five-time Pro Bowler tells Clowney to pace himself, stick to the schedule, not to rush the process. It's all life advice he's picked up throughout his career. In 2014, Wilfork returned from an Achilles injury and recorded 47 tackles, one interception, one quarterback hit, two tackles for a loss, and two passes defensed.
Clowney, who wants to go full speed ahead with the rest of his teammates, is on track to return to the field on Sunday in the Texans season opener against Kansas City.
"He's learning, he's learning, he's still young, but at the same time, he's the first pick, he wants to be out there with us, so he's going to get his moment," Wilfork said. "I just told him, 'When you get that moment, just make the best of it.' But he's been working his tail off all camp, on the practice field, off the practice field, in the film room, off the field in all the things he's been through right now to come here and be a professional the way he has, it shows a lot about how much he's grown over the year."
The Texans No. 1 overall draft pick left at halftime of last year's season opener against Washington and struggled to get back to 100 percent for the rest of the 2014 season, though he did return for three more games before landing on injured reserve. Eight months after his surgery, Clowney was cleared to return to practice last month.
"It's a long rehab process, a tough injury to come back from, but he's done everything that the team has asked him of, and he came back and responded well," Wilfork said. "I'm happy for him and I'm just happy to get out with him and play."
The Texans host the Kansas City Chiefs in their regular season opener on Sunday. Kickoff is set for noon CT on CBS KHOU-11 and SportsRadio 610.
Take a look back at the six-game series history between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs.