However, if you’re Jadeveon Clowney, that’s essentially what this season represents for the country’s most highly touted amateur athlete.
In case you might have forgotten, Jadeveon Clowney became the talk of college football and more importantly, NFL scouts, when he obliterated Michigan running back Vincent Smith in last year’s Outback Bowl.
Clowney’s tackle, in which he not only knocks out Smith, but also forces a fumble and then recovers the ball, would become the “play of the year” in college football, and would be shown on every sports show and every highlight reel for the next six months.
For the few who haven’t seen this, it’s pretty ratchet:
Coming out of high school, Clowney was unanimously rated as the top defensive end by every recruiting website in the nation.
But instead of going to a top-tier program like Alabama, Georgia, Texas, or Oregon, Clowney decided to stay in state and play for the “Ole Ball Coach,” Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks.
As a true freshman, Clowney proved that he was worth all of the hype he had received throughout high school. He finished the season with 36 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and eight sacks. He was crowned with numerous postseason awards, including SEC Freshman of the Year and the All-SEC 2nd team.
Unfortunately for every offensive linemen going up against him, the Clowney effect was only just beginning to scratch the surface.
In his sophomore season, Clowney blew up the stat book, registering a ridiculous 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, and three forced fumbles. He was a unanimous 1st Team All-American selection, winner of the Ted Hendricks award for best defensive linemen, and finished sixth in the Heisman voting.
With this highlight video, it’s clearly obvious that Jadeveon Clowney is a man amongst boys.
After last season, NFL analysts began drooling over Clowney’s future sacking quarterbacks on Sunday’s.
If you look at his physical stature, you will understand why.
At 6’6” and 270lbs, Clowney not only possess the size and strength to outwork offensive linemen, but also with his reported 4.4 40-yard dash time, the speed to easily maneuver his way to the quarterback.
Simply put, Jadeveon Clowney is a freak of nature. Would you want any part in trying to block this guy? You couldn’t pay me to block Mr. Clowney.
With an offseason full of accolades and hype regarding his potential stardom in the NFL, many critics were curious as to how Clowney would handle the pressure and stardom.
Throughout the summer, rumors swirled that Clowney would sit out this season to protect his draft stock and keep himself out of harms way.
But amidst these harsh rumors, Clowney was lining up on the edge for the Gamecocks in their first game of the 2013 season versus North Carolina. Although South Carolina went on to win the game handily 27-10, the real focus of the game was Clowney’s performance, or lack thereof.
Throughout the game, it became obvious that Clowney’s effort was not at 100%, if even at 50%. Clowney was clearly “taking plays off,” something that many coaches and fans were critical of.
For the Gamecock’s next three games, Clowney continued to show signs of poor effort, clearly giving off the signal that he has mind-set on the millions of dollars he will receive when he officially becomes a pro in next May’s NFL Draft.
Last Saturday, minutes before the Gamecocks were set to take on Kentucky, Clowney told Spurrier he couldn’t play because of an apparent rib injury.
Obviously, Spurrier wasn’t happy, and he made his feelings known after the game saying, “If he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play. Simple as that.”
Clowney’s so called “rib injury” is another stab to the heart for Mark Emmert and the NCAA. Clearly, Clowney cares more about his future state than his current one as an amateur athlete who is gaining no financial benefit for the work he puts in every Saturday.
Sadly, Clowney is the product of a failed system, where college football’s best players are extorted, and their universities reap the benefits of their amazing on field talents.
Many fans and college football advocates have been critical of Clowney for his lack of effort on the field in order to keep himself from sustaining a major injury, and severely hurting his chances of playing in the NFL.
But can you really blame the kid for what he’s doing? Personally, I find it morally wrong that Clowney is essentially giving up on his teammates and the Gamecocks season to protect his dream of playing in the NFL. But in a game where one bad twist or turn can change a man’s entire life and ruin his dream, is there something really wrong with what he’s doing?
The Gamecocks national title hopes may come to an end as Clowney decides how much he wants to play this season, but this issue is not one that will fall to the wayside come season’s end.
Look to see more and more star college football players follow in Clowney’s steps in the future. Is winning a national title worth the risk of losing millions of dollars? Many old school fans may argue that one should not look to the future to determine their effort level, but instead look to the side of their current teammates and play with every ounce of heart inside of them. Unfortunately, this is a different era, and to many players, the dream of landing an NFL contract is far greater than winning a national title.
Reports this week are saying Clowney is doing everything he can to get back on the field this Saturday versus Arkansas. But in all seriousness, what difference will it really make to have Clowney back on the field? He’s already shown that he cares more about his future on Sundays than his Heisman status or any postseason accolade.
If you’re looking to put the blame on Clowney, than hold your breath. This isn’t entirely his fault; this is institutional failure. The NCAA should look at Clowney’s situation with real terror, because we are sadly watching one of college football’s greatest players quickly fade away.
Is Clowney making the wrong choice here? Even if he doesn’t play another down this season, he’s still a lock to be a top five pick in the NFL Draft, and fans will still be willing to pay hundreds of dollars to see him do freakish things on the football field.
I guess I can’t really blame the guy. If you saw all the money hanging from the trees, wouldn’t you do the same?