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May 9, 2014

Clowney completes career double



In the end, all the preposterous and presumptuous posturing by the national media, anonymous league executives and cunning coaches proved meaningless.

Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney completed the career double on Thursday night, going from the No. 1 prospect nationally in high school to No. 1 draft pick in the National Football League.

Clowney, the most feared and schemed against college defensive player last season, was chosen first overall by the Houston Texans, joining former teammate D.J. Swearinger in the Lone Star State.

When his name was announced to thunderous cheers at Radio City Music Hall, Clowney walked onto the brightly lit stage and hugged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"Six-foot-5, 266 pounds, 34-1/2 inch arms, he ran a ridiculous 4.53 at 266 pounds," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock exclaimed within moments after the pick was announced. "This kid is explosive off the edge. He has length, he has first step quickness and he has explosion. He loves the inside swim, both in the run game and the pass. In the NFL, he's going to have to learn not to use that all the time."

Clowney combines with Pro Bowler J.J. Watt to form one of the best defensive end tandems in the NFL. Mayock said Watts and his legendary work ethic would ensure Clowney doesn't cut corners.

"What Houston has to do is get Clowney in that defensive line room with J.J. Watt and their defensive line coach, who has been around this league a long time," Mayock said. "The young man just has to understand how important it is not to just cash the check, but become the most dominant player in the league because that's what his talent demands."

Former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci proclaimed Clowney and the Texans as the perfect marriage.

"He's on the exact right team because of J.J. Watts, their defensive line coach and Romeo Crennel's scheme," Mariucci said. "He reminds me of Willie McGinest. He was the fourth pick in the draft. Both are great players."

Selecting Clowney first was popular with ESPN analysts as well.

"Clowney can be a great player. It's up to him," Mel Kiper said. "If he does everything necessary to maximize his ability, Clowney can be that good. He is special on the field. Stats lie. They did with Clowney. Yes, he dropped from 13 sacks a couple of years ago to three. But he was blocked, two, three or sometimes four players.

"Even Superman wouldn't have had 15 sacks the way they were paying attention to him game after game. This kid is explosive. He understands angles. There are a handful of great left tackles in this league. Clowney 1-on-1 will beat you. He was never 1-on-1 this year. When he was, he had a sack. He can be spectacular if he wants to be."

Clowney's complete package of once-in-a-generation physical skills were on full display during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and USC's Pro Day in early April.

However, his performances didn't end the speculation surrounding who the No. 1 pick in the draft would be. If anything, it intensified the debate. Regardless, Clowney put on a stunning show, justifying his status as perhaps the top prospect available.

Clowney, who ran the fastest 40-yard time at the NFL Combine by a defensive lineman in years, becomes the 12th first-round draft pick in South Carolina history and the seventh since 2000. He is just the second Gamecock taken with the first overall pick in the draft, joining 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, who was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the first pick in the 1981 draft.

In three seasons at USC, Clowney recorded 47.0 tackles for loss and 24.0 sacks, ranking second and third respectively in school history. A two-time first-team All-American, Clowney finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting following the 2012 campaign. He was named the All-America Player of the Year, presented by AT&T, as selected by the fans on ESPN.com and was the Hendricks Award winner as the nation's top defensive end. During his sophomore season, he set school single-season records for sacks (13.0) and tackles for loss (23.5) while earning USC Male Athlete of the Year accolades.

DM


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