Prior to kickoff South Carolina, learned All-American and reigning SEC defensive player of the year, Jadeveon Clowney, would not be able to play because of lingering pain in his ribs. The news came as a shock to Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, who anticipated that their star defensive end would be able to play vs. Kentucky.
Spurrier says Clowney told him just before game he couldn’t play. “I will just say he told me he couldn’t play.”
— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
The play of Clowney has been discusses ad nauseum as the presumptive first pick in the 2014 NFL draft and preseason Heisman candidate has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that preceded his junior season. After Spurrier questioned his motivation and desire to play through pain, now many will question his heart and love for football.
Spurrier on Clowney: “If he wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants.” — Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
Let us not forget that Clowney is already playing with bone spurs in his foot that will require surgery at the end of the season. That’s why I find Spurrier’s comments to be quite perplexing, and wonder if his form of motivation is what Clowney needs to revert back to the form he showed his first two seasons in Columbia.
Some may interpret Spurrier’s quotes as throwing his star player under the bus, while others will look at what quarterback Connor Shaw did today when he was supposed to be out of action for the next two weeks. Shaw completed 17 of his 20 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown, while running for another 50 and a score in a move typical of his grit and leadership.
If Shaw can play quarterback with a sprained shoulder, then it’s fair to ask why Clowney can’t or won’t play with bruised ribs.
Players have to learn to play through injury, and playing with pain is part of what makes good players great and great players legendary. We remember Emmitt Smith playing with a dislocated shoulder and Jack Youngblood playing in the Super Bowl with a broken leg.
Clowney’s decision to take himself out of the Gamecock’s win over Kentucky — they only won by seven —is more of an indictment than his lack of production.
There are no more excuses of offenses running away from you or you not being used correctly when you lack the heart and toughness and let your coaches, teammates and fans down.