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South Carolina star Clowney laying low, preparing for monster season

©2013 NPT PHOTO BY SETH BUTLER
South Carolina star defensive lineman, Jadeveon Clowney (at right), conducts an interview with ESPN’s Dari Nowkhah at SEC Media Days this week in Hoover, Alabama. Clowney, a junior this year, is projected by many to be the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Published: 6:03 PM, 07/21/2013 Last updated: 6:04 PM, 07/21/2013
 

Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

HOOVER, Ala.—You know the play.

Michigan running back Vincent Smith felt it all too well, as it replayed as the top play on ESPN’s SportsCenter every day for the first four months of the year.

You know the hype.

He’s as sure as a sure thing to be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Every offensive line focuses on him. Every quarterback fears him.

Yet, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has taken the antithesis to the approach that Heisman Trophy winner and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has taken for the upcoming season.

While Manziel has been ever visible on social media and making headlines all summer for all the wrong reasons, it’s Clowney who has been under the radar. While Manziel reportedly was sent home from last weekend’s Manning Passing Academy, Clowney has been invisible since January’s Outback Bowl - minus making appearances on the highlight reels.

“I stay away from (social media),” Clowney said. “I don’t post pictures, I don’t Tweet - I just stay off the internet.

“I did a lot of hanging out this summer, hanging out with my friends and taking trips,” Clowney said.

While the biggest NFL prospect in years had a low-key, fun offseason, he knows it’s time to get back in gear with the season opener less than six weeks away.

“When it’s time to go to work, it’s time to work and that’s all I’ve been doing since I’ve gotten back (to Columbia),” Clowney said.

Clowney dropped down to 256 pounds and recently recorded a 4.4 40-yard dash. While his physical attributes and stats can be eye-popping, the Gamecocks junior doesn’t let it go to his head.

Wide-eyed and a smile a mile long, Clowney shrugs off the individual accolades and what the future may hold for him in just a few months. Instead, he’s focused on placing South Carolina atop the SEC for the first time in school history.

“Jadeveon has done an excellent job staying out of the limelight all summer,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. “He’s been a good team player. he’s been there for workouts, he’s been there doing what he’s supposed to do.

“He’s obviously up for all of (the individual awards) that a defensive lineman can be up for,” said Spurrier, who compared the play of his defensive lineman to that of former Florida standout Jevon Kearse. “Individual awards are nice, but hopefully the most important thing for him is helping us with the SEC.”

It’s the small things however, that make Clowney stand out to his coach. While everyone sees the bone-jarring hits and highlight reel sacks, Spurrier sees other things that make Clowney primed and ready to make it as an NFL standout after this season.

“His hustle, just his run from sideline to sideline,” said Spurrier, of overlooked facets of Clowney’s game. “A lot of people try to run straight at a player that is tremendous in pursuit, like Jadeveon is, but his pursuit is the biggest thing, chasing ball carriers, quarterbacks and so forth.”

Those things hopefully can add up to equate to success on the field for the Gamecocks. South Carolina played for a conference title in 2010, but has yet to win the league after joining in 1992.

“I’m hungry about that. I’m hungry about getting to Atlanta,” Clowney said. “I know (the SEC championship) is a big stage, it’s the next step to getting to a national championship.”

However, Clowney knows he can position himself for a big pay day next April if he can at least keep pace with what he did last year.

“It’s a perfect balance to be competitive and get to the league,” Clowney said. “You just have to do what it takes and I know what it takes and that’s hard work.”

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