The Daily Gamecock

Not Clownin' Around

Whirlwind offseason has junior defensive end ready to hit the field

From start to finish, it took approximately 3.5 seconds.

From the moment the ball was snapped off the grass of Raymond James Stadium until the moment that a member of the Big East officiating crew assigned to the 2013 Outback Bowl blew his whistle, Jadeveon Clowney was one of college football’s best players.

Once the whistle blew, he was a rockstar.

Clowney’s play on Michigan running back Vincent Smith did not win the Outback Bowl and clinch South Carolina’s second consecutive 11-win season, but it catapulted the Rock Hill native into a level of adoration and scrutiny that few collegiate athletes have ever ventured. Now, as he enters his third, and likely final, season at USC, Clowney continues to live under a microscope. He was hounded at SEC Media Days in Birmingham and was the subject of brief compliance investigations regarding contact with Jay Z and items bearing his autograph appearing on eBay. In both cases, USC concluded that Clowney had done nothing to jeopardize his collegiate eligibility.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier hopes that the constant attention since that fateful play in January has nearly run its course.

“You know, we have talked about Jadeveon for seven months after that hit,” Spurrier said last week. “I think Jadeveon is tired of everybody talking about him. He’s ready for team, and hopefully what our team can achieve this year. We all know he’s a super player, but it’s a team sport.”

Clowney, who also traveled to Los Angeles to accept the ESPY award for Best Play of the Year over the summer, admitted at South Carolina’s media day that he is also ready to put all the talk behind him.

“I’m kind of tired of it,” Clowney said when asked about all the publicity. “I’m just ready to play and show people what I’ve got.”

The defensive end made waves during fall practice when he and teammate Gerald Dixon flipped a two-man blocking sled during position drills. Video of the incident quickly circulated around the Internet and was shown multiple times on SportsCenter. Clowney claims that despite all the hoopla, the sled-flipping was no big deal.

“Every little thing I do turns into a big deal,” said Clowney. “I just get a laugh out of it. All the players, we just have fun with it.”

The All-American has had eyes on him ever since his playing days at South Pointe High School, where he was USA Today’s National Defensive Player of the Year and South Carolina’s “Mr. Football.”,, and PrepStar Magazine all tabbed Clowney as the top high school football player in the nation and ESPNU placed him at the top of their list of the 150 best high school prospects. Clowney played in both the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Under Armour All-American Game before announcing his intention to sign with South Carolina on Valentine’s Day 2011, his 18th birthday.

Clowney has gone from high school phenomenon to college superstar, but he says that the player who had fans lining up for autographs before practices at fall camp is still the same guy who arrived in Columbia two years ago.

“I don’t think [the attention] should change you,” he said. “I’ve been playing football and doing the same things since I was young, but nobody noticed. Now, everybody is noticing. I’m just going to continue to play and do what I do.”

In his sophomore year, Clowney set the school records for sacks in a season (13.0) and tackles for loss in a season (23.5). Although he has only played two years at South Carolina, the six-and-a-half foot tall defender is fifth on the school’s career sack list and needs just 19.5 tackles for loss this year to break the school record. Combine his jaw-dropping numbers with his vicious hit from January and expectations for Clowney are out of control for 2013. Despite all the hype surrounding his junior season, Clowney says that his approach will remain the same and that his style of play isn’t going to change.

“No pressure,” Clowney said of the added expectations. “I’ve always played the same way and I’m going to continue to play that way. I play aggressive football and I’m going to keep trying to make plays. The pressure is on our team. We’re looking for a big season, so I think that there’s more pressure on our team than on me.”

While the Gamecocks are aiming for an SEC championship and a possible trip to the national title game, Clowney could find himself in the running for college football’s most prestigious award. No purely defensive player has ever won the Heisman Trophy, but analysts around the country are mentioning the Gamecock defensive end as a possible candidate. Clowney finished sixth in the Heisman voting last season and the online sportsbook Bovada had him at 15/2 odds last month, behind only Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. Clowney’s play versus Michigan has garnered plenty of attention, but the junior doesn’t think that the hit will give him an advantage in the Heisman race.

“I don’t think [that play] has anything to do with this year,” Clowney says. “What I do this year is what will determine whether I gain followers for the Heisman.”

Bringing South Carolina its second Heisman would be an incredible feat for the defensive lineman, but Clowney’s focus is on other goals. Although he has already had an incredible career at USC, Clowney has not yet attained any of the goals he set for himself when he arrived in Columbia. He hopes that his junior season will change that.

“When I came here as a freshman, I told myself I wanted to do three years,” said Clowney at SEC Media Days. “That was always my goal, to play three years before looking into the NFL Draft. [Winning the Heisman] is not really a big deal for me. The big deal for me is trying to win an SEC Championship and get selected high in the NFL Draft.”


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