Jadeveon Clowney on his NFL shot: ‘I’m just happy it’s coming’
Jadeveon Clowney had $450 to spend on electronics Monday. He did not invest it in a radar detector.
“I was looking for them,” he joked.
NFL general managers will file this latest development in their extensive Clowney notes. Is it further evidence of a kid more interested in life in the fast lane than life in the trenches?
With one game left in his college career, we’re no closer to an answer than we were when Clowney showed up at South Carolina. He was the Next Big Thing, and nobody can say the guy didn’t make an impression.
Every football fan in America grew to know Clowney. Steve Spurrier joked that 1.4 billion Chinese recognized the unique name due to the hit – sorry, The Hit — he put on Michigan’s Vincent Smith in last year’s Outback Bowl.
The sight of Vincent’s helmet flying off earned the play its own capitalized title, not to mention more than 6 million YouTube combined views. It set up Clowney as arguably the most hyped and definitely the most feared college football player going into this season.
But instead of confirming his status as the NFL’s top prospect, Clowney is now a wild card. He went from a school-record 12 sacks as a sophomore to three as a junior.
Teams ran away from him, and he had injuries. But Clowney also coasted and took himself out of the lineup minutes before the Kentucky game. He cited sore ribs, but skeptics wondered if the problem was more heart-related.
Specifically, his ticker just isn’t that into football, at least the college kind. So what’s he going to tell NFL teams looking for a heartbeat?
“I’m a great guy,” Clowney said. “I like to work when it’s time to work and play when it’s time to play.”
But is he mature enough to know the difference?
Clowney’s always been such a freakish athlete, he hasn’t had to apply himself to make the highlight circuit. It’s as if God looked down on Feb. 14, 1993, and created the ultimate pass-rushing machine.
He grew to be 6 feet 6 and 280 pounds, not counting the trademark dreadlocks. That potential is mesmerizing. But as Uncle Ben told Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Just when you think Clowney is ready to fully accept his duties, he drives the other way. Fast.
He was pulled over for going 110 mph a couple of weeks ago. That $445 ticket made such an impression, he was nailed last week for doing 84 mph in a 55 mph zone. He told state troopers he was rushing to catch the team plane to Orlando, where the Gamecocks will play Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.
“I tell you, he needs to go to driving school, doesn’t he?” Spurrier said when the team landed. “At least he’ll have enough money to pay for it in a week or so. Hopefully, they’ll send him after the bowl game.”
Again, he was joking. Clowney was a South Carolina folk hero before he got out of high school. He’s been handled with care and probably too much indulgence, state troopers excluded.
He’s also perpetually smiling and easygoing. That makes him fun to be around, though NFL teams would just as soon their defensive ends be nasty and ruthless.
“He’s a clown, man,” receiver Bruce Ellington said. “He should be out doing comedy.”
Clowney was certainly enjoying himself Monday. The NCAA allows bowl perks, and the Capital One gives players $450 gift cards to Best Buy. Clowney was the only player strolling the aisles with a state trooper in tow. It’s not as if he needed protection, though one lady asked for his autograph.
“He’s not allowed to do that,” the trooper told her.
So, what does the man who has almost everything give himself?
An Apple TV, an iPhone case and charger and, of course, a waterproof boom box.
“Something nice and simple,” Clowney said.
The truth is, just getting to the Capital One Bowl is what he really wanted. Barring something disastrous on Wednesday, it means Clowney has made it through his NFL-mandated time in college. He did it without suffering the kind of injury that derailed ex-teammate Marcus Lattimore.
He would have been a top-15 pick last year but suffered two serious knee injuries. You can’t blame Clowney for being careful after seeing that.
“I knew this time would come one day,” he said. “I’m just happy it’s coming.”
One more game and he’ll speed into the college sunset. Thanks for the memories, Jadeveon.
You showed you truly have it all.
Next, you need to show you truly want to use it.