“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.”
And he is definitely a defensive player. Not a two-way guy like Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson, who won the 1997 Heisman.
Spurrier was asked if there was a chance that Clowney could play on offense. His deadpan response: “Not really. We got a bunch of offensive players that are pretty good.”
Clowney said he had a quiet summer of keeping things simple and hanging out with his group of friends from high school.
His recent training table didn’t feature steak and potatoes but an old favorite after getting down to about 256 pounds.
“I picked up six pounds in two days the other day, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all day,” Clowney said. “It was killing my throat. I had to drink a lot of water, but I ate like six peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and dinner.”
Next on the menu, he hopes: Opposing quarterbacks.