But it was just that for him -- a step.
"That was the first step to getting here," Clowney said Monday, three days after signing a four-year deal worth more than $22 million. "The next step is taking it farther than that. Try to get better at the game. ... I'm still learning. There's a learning curve here, trying to adapt."
The Texans' new coaching staff throws a lot at all of its players. For rookies, it's that much more as their process would be difficult even in a simpler system. Versatility is paramount for the Texans, so players are all learning how to do as much as they can.
In Clowney's case, particularly, his coaches have been working on outside linebacker, defensive end, 3-technique and even nose tackle.
"You teach it by package," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "First thing you teach is how to play the Sam position or the right outside linebacker, left outside linebacker position in a 3-4, you start with that. That's what [defensive coordinator] Romeo [Crennel] always does. Build a foundation there. Then you move from there to the next package to nickel. And then the next package, which is dime.
"Sometimes he moves around. He's not always playing outside backer. Sometimes he's an end, sometimes he's a 3-technique, sometimes he's a nose. You do it by package so that he can, in his own mind, along with all the players that do those things, they can segment it in their mind and understand the importance of each package."
Clowney understands the importance. He's put in extra time in the classroom and on the field to learn better. O'Brien said he's been working very hard.
"It's a lot," Clowney said. "It's like, if I learn something [then] they throw something else at me, I might forget what I learned the first time. I always go back and review my notes. Just take one day at a time learning."
As for the money, Clowney downplayed it, but it does mean something to him. The day after he was drafted, he quietly said, "Now I can finally take care of my mom."
On Monday he echoed that thought.
"Gotta take care of my money," Clowney said. "Save it -- after I buy my mom something nice."