No. 1 recruit commits in front of national audience
ROCK HILL — Jadeveon Clowney was ready to go. ESPN wasn’t.
Either way, South Carolina is happy.
The Gamecocks got their man.
Clowney, the nation’s top-ranked high school football player, committed to USC Monday at South Pointe High School. The announcement brought an end to one of the most publicized recruiting sagas in recent memory.
As had been expected, Clowney chose USC over Clemson and Alabama, calling it an “easy decision.”
“I knew, like, a week ago,” Clowney said of his conclusion.
Clowney’s announcement was delayed several minutes at the request of ESPN, which was televising the ceremony live on the network’s flagship program, SportsCenter. When Clowney was first ready to reveal his choice, ESPN was on a commercial break and communicated such to him.
Clowney stood at the podium, not appearing sure of what to do. He announced he was being told by ESPN that two minutes remained before he could speak. To break the awkward silence, people in the crowd began to sing “Happy Birthday” on two occasions. Monday was Clowney’s 18th birthday.
About five and a half minutes after the original delay, Clowney was given the go-ahead. He then did what most predicted, picking up the garnet baseball cap with an interlocking “SC” logo on the front from the table to his right and putting it on his head.
Clowney said he did not inform coaches from Clemson or Alabama of his decision prior to the announcement. He admitted Monday he had been leaning toward USC for quite some time, although he expected at times he’d go elsewhere, anticipating another school would “treat him better” and be more appealing.
In the end, that didn’t come to pass. But it almost did. Clowney gave kudos to a late Clemson charge spearheaded by coach Dabo Swinney and said the Tigers almost won him over. But, he said, the chance to play in the Southeastern Conference was a major decision point.
“I was very close to going to Clemson,” Clowney said. “My mom really liked Clemson. But I wanted to play in the SEC.”
Swinney in particular had an effect on Josenna Clowney, Jadeveon’s mother.
“He really sounded real good,” said Josenna Clowney. “We [weren’t] even going to take the Clemson visit. He talked us into to coming to Clemson.”
Josenna Clowney went on to say she didn’t talk to USC coach Steve Spurrier as much as she talked to Swinney but affirmed she is happy for her son and his decision.
Jadeveon Clowney’s decision came 12 days after National Signing Day, which was on Feb. 2. He indicated if he could do the recruiting process over again, he likely wouldn’t have extended the process.
“I’m happy now,” Clowney said. “I wish I had [signed] on the second (of February).”
The decision to wait before making a choice was made in order to fully complete his process, Clowney said. He specifically mentioned making all of his official visits, including one to Clemson on Jan. 29, which sparked the stretch run rally for CU.
“I wasn’t really sure. I still had visits [to take],” Clowney said. “I took a visit to Clemson. So I wasn’t sure where I was going to go.”
In recent days, concerns have been raised about the possibility of Clowney failing to gain admittance to USC. A Feb. 11 story in the New York Times story raised questions about his academic record. Clowney was steadfast in stating he will be eligible to attend USC.
“That’s taken care of,” Clowney said. “I’ve taken the class I need to take again, and I’m going to get in.”
Many coaches, teammates and acquaintances have spoken of Clowney’s confidence during the recruiting process. It was on display Monday, especially when he was asked what he expects out of his freshman season at Carolina.
“To play and make a lot of plays,” Clowney responded, later adding, “As soon as I step in there, I’m going to start.”
Toward the end of the question-and-answer session with media following the ceremony, Clowney was asked if the fact he can accomplish something historic with the up-and-coming Gamecocks was a factor in his decision.
He said it was, adding he has large aspirations for what USC can achieve during his time in Columbia.
“Oh, it’s going to be big,” Clowney said.
When asked to elaborate on what “big” meant, Clowney didn’t hesitate on details.
“I hope the national championship,” he said.