COLUMBIA, S.C. — All the watchful eyes of the NFL turned to South Carolina’s Pro Timing Day at Williams-Brice Stadium, where the featured attraction was potential No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney.
More than 140 credentialed media and 30 of 32 NFL teams were counted while live look-ins from ESPN, NFL Network and Fox Sports 1 provided fans across the country a peek at the pass rusher.
If you listened to Clowney and the experts on hand, the 6-foot-5, 266-pound freakish athlete did more than impress.
“I wanted to show that I moved well lateral, not just one way,” Clowney said. “They know I have speed but I think I showed how quick I can get my hips. I also showed my cardio, that I’ve been working out and staying in shape. I can pretty much do it all. I can be a play-maker on defense.”
Representing the Houston Texans, the franchise that holds the No. 1 overall pick for the third time in franchise history, was a contingent of eight. That crew met with Clowney Tuesday night and will host him again this month in Houston.
Owner Bob McNair, who is a South Carolina graduate, and coach Bill O’Brien were among representatives the Texans brought to town. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was one of the position coaches that was able to put Clowney through individual agility drills.
O’Brien did not tip the Texans’ hand with which way they were leaning but he was excited how Clowney performed. The opportunity to see Clowney show his ability in different drills other than strictly rushing the passer was an important aspect to his day.
“He played DE in a four-down (linemen) scheme here so it was good to see him go through a bunch of different drills,” said O’Brien, who plans to use more 3-4 elements in his Houston defense. “He’s an athletic guy obviously so it was good to watch him do those things. There wasn’t anything that changed my mind on what type of player he is. It was good to get to meet with him. I think he’s showed he’s a team-first guy.”
Clowney elected to forgo the bench press and 40-yard dash that he competed in at the NFL Combine in February. He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash and did 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench in Indianapolis. Clowney felt that was good enough. He didn’t go through any positional drills at the combine but ran the full gauntlet Wednesday, when a rotation of defensive line coaches and coordinators moved him through several unique drills.
The All-American defensive end showed his lateral quickness and his hips were fluid during drills where he dropped in coverage/
The St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars have the two picks following the Texans. Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley was the only other head coach to make an appearance Wednesday but the Rams set up a private meeting with Clowney. The Titans and Browns were the only two teams not to have a representative on hand.
ESPN analyst and former NFL All-Pro linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who played in a 3-4 defense with the Patriots, was impressed by what Clowney showed.
“He looked natural,” Bruschi said. “Did it look like he was getting away with it or was he fluid enough to do? He can do it.”
Clowney’s ability has never been questioned. The one lingering issue that has followed him, especially during the past year when his numbers tailed off from 13 sacks as a sophomore to three as a junior, is his work ethic as teams wonder if he loves the game and what motivates him to be maximize his vast potential.
Clowney believes he has done enough to answer that question but he understands where it comes from.
“I understand the question but dealing with me, I think it’s unfair,” he said. “I came out every Saturday and played my hardest. I might be the only person you watched and say I looked tired but if you looked around me I wasn’t the only one tired.”
O’Brien, asked if he had any issues or concerns with Clowney’s motor or work ethic, said “No. None.”
Bruschi has watched a bunch of film on Clowney and said there certainly were plays he took off but overall he has a high motor. He didn’t think that would be an issue at the next level.
“I don’t know him personally but from what I’ve seen on film, I don’t doubt him at all,” Bruschi said. “Are there plays I wish he would have played harder, Yes. Are there are plays where I thought he couldn’t have played harder? Yes. There are more of the latter.”
Being the No. 1 pick is an honor Clowney covets. He came out of high school as the No. 1 recruit in the country and his goal was to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in three seasons.
The Texans don’t have an established starting quarterback. They traded Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders and signed journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it is widely expected Houston’s starting quarterback is not yet on the roster. The Texans could choose one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, but Clowney hopes he convinced the team brass he is the wise choice.
“It’s a pride thing,” Clowney said. “Coming out of high school, I told coach (Lorenzo) Ward, (Shawn) Elliott and (Brad) Lawing that if I come to Carolina, I want to leave in three years and I want to be the first person taken in the draft.”