HOOVER, Ala. — Jadeveon Clowney was playing the new NCAA video game one night recently when he made a seemingly improbable declaration for a 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end.
“I’m going to get up and run a 4.4 in the morning,” Clowney told his roommate. “I just know I’m going to do it.”
Sure enough, the South Carolina star said Tuesday he ran a 4.46 in the 40 – and not by playing as himself on the screen. Just add that freakish feat to the growing legend of a player who has already racked up big sack numbers, made a resounding hit that went viral and drawn buzz that he’ll be the No. 1 NFL draft pick and maybe even win the Heisman Trophy.
Equally important to coach Steve Spurrier: Clowney has avoided some of the pratfalls of that fame. He hasn’t made headlines for off-the-field troubles, unlike some of his peers.
“Jadeveon has done an excellent job staying out of the limelight all summer,” Spurrier said at Southeastern Conference media days. “He’s been a good teammate.
“He’s been there for the workouts. He’s been there doing what he’s supposed to do.”
Clowney, who was sixth in the Heisman voting as a sophomore, shrugs off talk of being the rare defensive player to win the coveted prize this season. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o finished second last season.
“That’s not really a goal for me,” said Clowney, whose table drew easily the biggest crowd of the day. “A goal for me is winning the SEC. That’s our biggest goal right now.”
He won the Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end and joined George Rogers as the Gamecocks’ only unanimous All-Americans. Clowney has 21 sacks, 35.5 tackles for loss and eight forced fumbles in 13 career starts.
He also has The Hit.
Clowney, the SEC defensive player of the year, made one of last season’s signature plays. His hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith drew millions of You Tube views after he knocked the runner on his back with a helmet-toppling smack, then reached out with one hand to snare the ball.
SEC quarterbacks took notice. So did much of college football.
“Have I seen it? Wasn’t it like the top play (on ESPN) for a couple of weeks?” Missouri quarterback James Franklin said. “Yes, sir. It was crazy just when he hit him and he has really long arms so when he reached out and picked the ball up, I thought he was about to run it back for a touchdown.”
Clowney had 1.5 sacks against the Tigers last season.
He had one against Florida, too. Gators coach Will Muschamp, a former defensive coordinator, has a preference over seeing a player from that side of the ball winning the Heisman.
“I’d like to see him come out early (for the NFL) before our game,” Muschamp said. “He’s an outstanding player. He’s a guy you better account for every snap. He’s an explosive guy.”
Spurrier addressed some more controversial topics during media days. He said he thinks it’s unanimous among his SEC brethren that football and basketball players should get paid, and Notre Dame should join a conference for football.
Spurrier opened his quip-filled address by saying the 28 football and men’s basketball coaches were in favor of paying players about $300 a game in football and perhaps a little less in hoops. Spurrier, who has made the pitch before, also said the coaches each indicated at spring meetings they were willing to pony up the $280,000 or so he estimated it would cost.
“This is tiny compared to the money that’s coming in now,” he said. “I think we all know that.
“I’m going to keep fighting for our guys. If President Obama would say, ‘Spurrier, you and those coaches need to quit fighting for your players, that they get enough, they get enough full scholarship,’ then I’ll shut up about it.”
He said that “little bit” – $3,600 or so a year per player, he figures – would give players some pocket money and help their parents attend games.
Spurrier also said the football coaches spoke with BCS executive director Bill Hancock, who told them he was meeting with the commissioners of BCS conferences – and Notre Dame’s athletic director.
“We just started trying to figure out why the athletic director of Notre Dame is equal to all the conference commissioners,” Spurrier said. “Nobody had a good answer except that’s the way it’s always been done.
“For whatever reason, all 14 of our head coaches thought that Notre Dame should join the ACC and play football like the rest of us.”
The colorful coach added he knows that notion would anger “the Notre Damers” at him and his colleagues but didn’t back down.