Jadeveon Clowney, the hulking defensive end with the camp counselor’s smile, met a rabid group of confused media members Monday in the bowels of Williams-Brice Stadium, and batted aside questions about his health and heart the way he used to dispatch offensive lineman. With TV camera lights in his grill and an army of tape recorders surrounding him, Clowney seemed surprised at the line of questioning, which occasionally had to do with his rib injury (pulled muscle tendons, to be specific), but mostly veered in this direction:
Are you surprised Paul Finebaum called you the biggest joke in college football this season?
Do you enjoy playing football?
Have you played your last game here?
Clowney met the last question with an incredulous laugh, stunned at the inquiry.
He should have been ready. While Clowney chalked up his absence Saturday night against Kentucky to “miscommunication with his coach,” the story had been brewing for nearly 72 hours, because that’s when Steve Spurrier first popped off about it. Spurrier, never one to hold back, tried to rectify his comments Monday, but the damage was done.
Clowney didn’t love football, Jason Whitlock surmised.
Clowney was being selfish, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and Colin Cowherd agreed.
His draft stock is plummeting! Clowney is costing himself millions by half-assing it this season and taking too many plays off! What a decaying situation!
[Aside: For the "he's-taking-plays-off" crowd: in the first four games, Clowney has been on the field for 78% of South Carolina's defensive snaps. That compares favorably with other 4-3 defensive ends who ended up being 1st round picks in recent years, like DeMarcus Ware, Jason Pierre-Paul and Julius Peppers. Disruption is production. I love that.]
As everyone debates Jadeveon Clowney’s draft stock – and ignores his 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last year, when healthy – let’s recall a few other prominent college stars who tumbled down draft boards for various reasons, and how they turned out:
Warren Sapp, Miami, 1995 draft: One of the best defensive lineman in college football over the last 25 years figured to be a Top 3 pick, but the night before the draft, reports surfaced that he failed cocaine and marijuana tests. He fell to Tampa Bay at 12. Sapp had his issues on and off the field, but he was a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Dan Marino, Pittsburgh, 1983 draft: If he had left after his junior year, Marino would probably have been the #1 pick (37 TDs, 2,800 yards, Sugar Bowl win). He was on the cover of every preseason magazine in 1982, then struggled, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Drug rumors dogged the Pittsburgh team. Scouts didn’t like Marino’s attitude. And also: “In our mind, Marino had a few things against him. Early that year against a huge North Carolina rush, he had thrown the ball up for grabs. He had a knee problem. He had football sense but not book sense. Without book sense, we wondered how long it would take him to adjust to the Jets’ complicated offense.” Marino fell all the way to Miami with the 27th pick. He was a 1st ballot Hall of Famer.
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State, 2010 draft: Was suspended from the Cowboys during his junior year for lying to the NCAA about visiting Deion Sanders and working out with him. [How selfish!] His draft stock fell. Then, it got really ugly: After Bryant revealed to Jeff Ireland of the Dolphins that his father was a “pimp,” Ireland asked if his mother was a prostitute. Bryant slid further down draft boards because teams were afraid of him. The Cowboys grabbed him 24th. Bryant, in his 4th year in the league, has had some off-the-field issues, but is already one of the top five receivers in the NFL.
Randy Moss, Marshall, 1998 draft: One of the best high school athletes of the last 30 years was a coveted recruit and headed to Notre Dame when a racially-motivated fight in school got him 30 days in jail and probation. ND pulled the offer. So Florida State took Moss. He went there, and the hype was enormous: Early in the fall of 1995, during an impromptu late-night footrace among the Seminoles’ fastest players, Moss came in second. When he went through practice the following spring as a redshirt freshman, the defense couldn’t stop him from scoring. “He was as good as Deion Sanders,” Bowden says. “Deion’s my measuring stick for athletic ability, and this kid was just a bigger Deion.” Then Moss failed a marijuana test and got kicked out of school, and because he was on probation, went to jail. He ended up at Marshall, starred there, but still fell down draft boards. Minnesota took a chance on him at 21. Moss ended his NFL career as arguably the 2nd best receiver in the history of the sport. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame.
I’d say Sapp, Marino, Bryant and Moss all had higher and significantly more red flags than Clowney, who to this point in his 20 years on the planet, has essentially been a saint. No off-field issues in high school or college. His on-field issues? Well, between his foot injury (he will have surgery after the season), losing three of his colleagues to the draft last year, and five of the team’s top seven tacklers being freshman and sophomores, well yeah, teams are game-planning for him because nobody else on that defense scares anyone.
The Hit was the worst thing that ever happened to Clowney. The hype machine kicked into 5th gear. Have NFL riches gone to his head? Probably a bit, which is why he’s being cautious. Would they go to yours? Jadeveon Clowney is a winning, walking lottery ticket that will be cashed around 8 pm on May 8, 2014, unless it has been torn.
Clowney, who in the video above says he “can’t run,” is questionable for Saturday’s game against Arkansas.