By Ray Hamill
Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier are saying all the right things this week, but you have to wonder if the star defensive end’s head or heart is in the game right now, and, more importantly, who can really blame him if they’re not.
Clowney told reporters after practice on Tuesday that he is fully committed to the team, after sitting out last weekend’s game in somewhat bizarre circumstances, the latest in a line of minor injuries to affect the junior standout, who is projected to be among the top picks in next year’s NFL draft.
Spurrier at first criticized Clowney for missing last weekend’s game with a rib injury, but softened substantially on his stance this week, suggesting Clowney can play if and when he’s ready and that South Carolina and its fans should be grateful to him for everything he has done for the program and the school, as well as all the money he has made for them.
Sounds like Spurrier gets it. On two levels.
First, he realizes the importance of handling this graciously and how being seen to have his star player’s back will benefit future recruiting, and second, he realizes Clowney’s commitment to the team will always come second to the commitment he has for his family’s financial security.
And who can blame him?
To understand Clowney’s position, you only have to go back to last October, when teammate Marcus Lattimore blew out his knee during a game. Lattimore was expected to go in the mid-to-late first round of the NFL draft, which would have netted him somewhere around the $8-10 million mark in guaranteed money. Instead he was a fourth-round compensatory pick by the 49ers, where he signed a four-year deal worth $2.46 million, with just $300,000 guaranteed.
That’s a substantial difference, especially for someone like Clowney who grew up in a single-parent household, and whose mother works in a Frito-Lay factory.
As to whether it will affect his draft status, well that remains to be seen, although at this stage it’s unlikely to affect it that much.