Clowney a Heisman candidate without controversy


South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney arrives in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 11:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 11:36 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. — He has already taken care of his Heisman moment. The defending champion of the stiff-arm award has been pushing away any chance of a repeat with his boorish behavior. South Carolina is expected to have its best team ever.

And he already made a strong showing in the voting last year as a sophomore when he finished sixth.

These are some of the reasons why it’s not unthinkable that Jadeveon Clowney could win the Heisman Trophy this season.

Even if he probably won’t.

It’s this time of the year that we can take something as improbable as a defensive end winning the most significant individual award in sports and make arguments that make sense.

“He’s up for all of the individual awards,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “Individual awards are nice. Hopefully, the most important thing for him is helping us win an SEC title.”

On top of what is already on Clowney’s resume, there is this — Clowney confirmed Tuesday he ran a 4.46 in the 40 during a recent workout. That’s running back fast, and Clowney is 6-foot-6, 270 pounds.

“My roommate and I were playing NCAA Football and I told him I was going to run a 4.4 the next day,” Clowney said. “He thought I was crazy. After I did it, he asked how I did it. I told him I didn’t know.”

The biggest question internally at South Carolina is whether or not Clowney will go all out because he knows there’s a good chance he’ll be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. There was even the crazy suggestion that he might not play this year to avoid injury.

Instead, he took out a $5 million insurance policy — the maximum allowed by the NCAA. Clowney insists he didn’t want to do it.

“I play football, but I could get hurt any day doing anything,” he said. “But they said I should do it. It doesn’t change anything.”

Clowney has several things going for him including the Outback Bowl game last year when he clocked Michigan running back Vincent Smith, knocking the Wolverine’s helmet seven yards backward. Clowney also scooped up the fumble with one hand and the Gamecocks went on to win the game. The video has received 3.7 million hits on YouTube.

“I knew it was a big deal the next day when ESPN kept showing it over and over and over,” he said. “I said, ‘It’s a big deal now.’ People come up to me and ask about it and I just laugh.”

It doesn’t matter that Clowney was unblocked on the play or that Gamecock insiders will tell you that play ranked way down on his list of best plays over the last two seasons.

It was sexy and, even with a Heisman electorate that has been whittled down (voters who refused to back down on revealing their ballots before the announcement have been eliminated), it’s still full of uninformed voters.

Show them that hit a few times, point out Johnny Manziel’s offseason issues and, heck, they might take the award away from the Texas A&M quarterback and hand it to Clowney before the season.

That’s the thing about Clowney. He’s likeable and without controversy. He has a toothy smile and a winning personality. He’s a guy who likes to hang out playing video games rather than hitting the clubs or Twitter.

“I don’t get on the Internet,” he said. “I don’t post pictures. I don’t tweet. Twitter is crazy. I don’t know why people tweet the crazy stuff they do. Stay off the Internet.”

Clowney also knows he already has Spurrier in his corner and that as a former Heisman winner the ball coach will vote for him if he plays well this season. In fact, he did last year.

“He’s a disruptive player that every team has to account for,” Spurrier said. “And he’s done an excellent job of staying out of the limelight all summer.”

Of course, this is July when every college football player is technically a Heisman candidate. Clowney could very well be the best player in the country and the first pick in the draft and still finish sixth in the Heisman voting. It’s a flawed system.

But it’s hard to find a flaw with this player.

“I’d like to see him come out early,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said, “before our game.”

So would every other coach in the league. They’ll have to wait a year. Instead, a charming beast of a man will try to lead South Carolina to the SEC title this season.

And if he can do that, his chances of winning the Heisman are realistic.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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