September 15, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) sacks UAB Blazers quarterback Jonathan Perry (14) in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Legend of Jadeveon Clowney Grows Even in The Off-Season

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January 1,2013; Tampa, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) rushes as Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (12) throws the ball during the second half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. South Carolina won 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney adds one chapter after another to his Paul Bunyan-like football existence. At Thursday’s spring practice, he reportedly blocked a field goal attempt in the most surreal fashion imaginable. Let’s call this the Reverse Charlie Brown:

Incredulous? You may not follow Clowney closely enough. He’s teetering close to becoming the real life Bill Brasky.

And consider that Jadeveon Clowney is just 20 years old. He was 19 for the duration of his second collegiate football season. He is still developing, still maturing, still improving. There couldn’t be a more terrifying realization for offensive linemen, running backs and quarterbacks around college football. Just ask Michigan’s Vincent Smith.

The fumble Clowney forced on that helmet-freeing decleater turned the tide of the Gamecocks’ Outback Bowl defeat of the Wolverines. It’s the signature moment of an outstanding sophomore campaign, and the potential springboard into a Heisman campaign.

But the Jadeveon Clowney legend began well before he lit up Smith in January. There was never a more demonstrably ballyhooed recruit in prep football history, earning the No. 1 ranking from every reputable scouting service. In his senior season at South Pointe High School, he opened the South Carolina state championship game sacking current Notre Dame Fighting Irish and current Myrtle Beach High quarterback Everett Golson (video via Reddit.com/r/CFB):

For Clowney to fail meeting expectations upon his arrival in Columbia would have been understandable, because expectations were set so high. Any time a true freshman stands out is noteworthy, but particularly so when as many eyes are fixed on him. Those eyes included Clowney’s competitors, other star prep players in the wildly talented SEC who revel in dominating an opponent. Double that reveling with the added motivation of making a name on the most

No doubt Jadeveon Clowney has had a target on his garnet-and-black No. 7, but that has seemingly fueled his play. The higher the stakes, the more Clowney shows up. He is so perfectly suited to the big moment, it’s only fitting his almost assuredly final college season ends in the biggest moment.

Clowney’s declaration he was coming for the Heisman in 2013 might seem like hubris for the uninitiated. A defense-only player has never won the award. Moreover, so vocally laying out an individual goal might seem like dismissal of team objectives. Either notion is off-base.

Firstly, Clowney may be the Heisman front runner — not a contender, but a legitimate front runner. His name is perhaps the most well-known in college football, save Texas A&M Aggies quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. And as for individual success, as Jadeveon Clowney goes, so goes South Carolina.

OK, so it may not be that simple. But he has had game-saving moments, like his forced fumble on Tyler Bray in the Gamecocks’ win over the Tennessee Volunteers last October.

He is undeniably the engine pacing the Gamecocks, and this season they could contend for the SEC championship.

Should that chapter go into the Jadeveon Clowney legacy, his story will truly reach mythical proportions.

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