With recent comments surfacing from an anonymous NFL executive calling Jadeveon Clowney “spoiled” and “lazy,” fingers have been pointed in every direction assigning blame for this pot-stirring opinion. Is this a ploy trying to scare others away from drafting Clowney? Does somebody have an ax to grind? If this does hold water, then who is to blame?
Clowney’s entitlement issues could be blamed on the coaching staff at South Carolina. After all, they were completely unable to motivate him after 2012. When Clowney decided to sit out the Kentucky game last season due to injury, Steve Spurrier engaged in a snarky discussion with the media that doomed Clowney for the rest of 2013:
“If he wants to play, we’ll welcome him to come play for the team if he wants to … But if he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play. It’s as simple as that.”
That proverbial line in the sand was not the right approach and Clowney was a media pariah for the rest of the season. Questions arose and the hype machine changed gears and became a rumor mill that continues to plague Clowney to this day.
There is no way to know if Clowney really took the season off or if he was nursing injuries for most of the year. It is easy for a talking head to affix terms like “lack of commitment” or as Paul Finebaum once said about him, “the biggest joke in college football.” Clowney went to the mountaintop in 2012 and there was nowhere to go but down.
What can be surmised from his career at South Carolina is that he was one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the history of the SEC. Clowney registered 24 sacks, 47 tackles for loss and forced nine fumbles in three seasons. He made every All-American team possible at some point in his career.
The man was virtually unstoppable one-on-one, had quarterbacks’ heads on a swivel and gave offensive coordinators nightmares. Even in his “down” year, he was changing offensive game plans.
Not to mention, the team experienced unparalleled success during Clowney’s tenure, going 11-2 in every season and winning three bowl games. Prior to that, no South Carolina team had ever won more than 10 games. Clowney needed to lead the Gamecocks to a national championship and win the Heisman to really expand his resume after 2012.
Maybe his numbers were a disappointment and maybe his attitude left much to be desired in 2013, but Clowney had nothing to prove in all honesty. He dominated at the highest collegiate level, he is a winner and there was no doubt that NFL money was in his future. So what if Clowney decided to protect his most valuable investment?
Let us not forget that Clowney watched Marcus Lattimore blow out his knee twice. Lattimore was a surefire first-round pick who fell to the fourth round, a sad saga that cost him millions of dollars. Those gruesome moments are enough to make anyone apprehensive, especially someone like Clowney, who grew up poor in Rock Hill, SC.
When you are damaged goods, you get a tag and you never quite shake it. As it stands, he will likely be a top-three pick in the draft and make an obscene amount of money.
I think he sincerely feared for his future. Clowney is not spoiled or lazy as the all-knowing anonymous NFL executive believes. He would not have all of these accolades if he were. As any southerner will tell you, every small town has a guy that “should have made it” in professional sports. Whether it be grades, trouble with the law or injuries, there is always one former athlete who has a tragic story about why he never went to the big show.
Clowney simply did not want to be part of that sad statistic.