HOOVER, Ala. – If Jadeveon Clowney can already be considered a legend at the tender age of 20, then his tale only grew at SEC Media Days.
Not a soul in the room was unaware of his presence on Tuesday, and when tempted throughout the day, hardly anyone in attendance would even consider Clowney anything but the most dominant defensive player in the nation.
As for his latest superhuman feat, the South Carolina defensive end recounted the events leading up his 4.46 40-yard dash, which all began with a teammate’s foolish dare.
“I was with [fellow defensive end Chaz] Sutton and I said I was going to get up in the morning and run a 4.40,” Clowney said. “We were just sitting around, at like one in the morning, and he was like ‘Man, you’re just playing. You ain’t gonna run that.’ So I said watch me. And I went and ran it.”
A ferocious combination of strength, reach and a quick-twitch burst, Clowney wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines with 13.0 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss in 2012. But even more so than his raw statistical output was the overall impact he had on any offensive coordinator’s gameplan: blocking assignments were changed, plays were eliminated and double-teams were required.
Perhaps South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw summed up everything about the most terrifying man in college football at the podium with one simple truth.
“We don’t have a guy in practice that can block [Clowney], but no one else in the country does either,” Shaw said.
But for all the fanfare surrounding the South Carolina defensive end, he seemed unfazed by all the attention directed his way since becoming a collegiate star. He answered countless questions, ranging from favorite opponents to other sports he may or may not play. There was even a question about his apparel.
Through it all, Clowney sat content and relaxed with an air of mild amusement.
“I’m starting to get used to [the spotlight],” Clowney said. “I told myself I didn’t want to come in number one and not leave number one. Everything that’s happened to me, it’s just the greatest feeling ever.”
And if all of Clowney’s nearly unrivaled athletic prowess has gone to his head, coaches and teammates certainly don’t seem to notice anything different in the defensive end’s attitude and work ethic.
“Jadeveon has done an excellent job staying out of the limelight all summer. He’s been a good teammate,” head coach Steve Spurrier said. “He’s been there for the workouts. He’s been there doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s actually a little lighter than he was at the end of last year, I think he told me. He’s going to be ready to go.”
Those giving praise to Clowney’s abilities were not just limited to his head coach and teammates, either. Players from all around the SEC – offense and defense – were more than willing to give credit where credit was due in the case of undeniable talent.
“You definitely got to watch film on him, definitely got to practice physical. You just got to bring your A game against people like Clowney,” Florida offensive lineman Jon Halapio said. “Always going. I never see him with his hands on his hips, I never see him breathing hard. He’s a very confident player, a very good athlete.”
“He has everything you’re looking for in a defensive end,” Missouri wide receiver L’Damian Washington said. “Kind of reminds me of Aldon Smith, a guy that played here at Missouri for two years. You just have to appreciate talent like that. It’s rare.”
As for his chances of winning the Heisman this season – an accomplishment only seen once by a defensive player in Charles Woodson – even a repeat performance of his 2012 campaign would put his trophy odds at a bit of a stretch.
But regardless of the season’s outcome for Clowney and the Gamecocks, one thing that was made certain at SEC Media Days is the amount of respect the league holds for the player that already looks to be a No. 1 overall draft pick.
“Number one,” Florida head coach Will Muschamp said when asked where he would rank Clowney.
Indeed, questioning his status as college football’s best defender – even its best overall player – was often considered a formality by the reporters at SEC Media Days. Everyone already knew the answer.
- Alec Shirkey is the sports editor of The Red & Black.
More from Alec at SEC Media Days: