Shame on us. In the 493 days since New Year’s Day of 2013, we’ve gone from (a) discovering Jadeveon Clowney to (b) marveling at the way he separated Vincent Smith’s helmet from his head to (c) viewing the viral video a few zillion times to (d) learning how to spell and pronounce his first name to (e) touting him for the Heisman Trophy to (f) watching him wilt in South Carolina’s August humidity to (g) hearing Steve Spurrier doubt his work ethic to (h) removing him from Heisman consideration to (i) wondering if he intentionally took the college season off to protect his body and draft status to (j) questioning if he has the desire and passion to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft to (k) seeing him blow away the scouting intelligentsia with his speed and size at the combine to, in the end, (l) concluding that few football players ever have been blessed with the overwhelming entirety of his awesomeness.
So we’re back to where the media charade began, full circle, when he was blowing up Vincent Smith and freaking out Jon Gruden in the bowl game. Except now we’re also aware of Jadeveon’s celebrity crush. “Rihanna, yeah, Rihanna. I’m coming, girl,’’ Clowney said on draft eve.
What people want to know is whether he wants more out of life than a pop star. My guess — and guessing is what everybody is doing here, from Mel Kiper Jr. to the Houston Texans to the peanut gallery inside Radio City Music Hall — is that Clowney burns to shut us up and become one of the NFL’s all-time pass-rushers. I could turn this into a debate on why college players should be allowed to enter the draft after their second seasons, but now that the big night has arrived, we should be assessing whether Clowney will transform the game or make Warren Sapp look like a bigmouth savant. “My grandfather taught me something a long time ago. He said, `You will never get more money by doing less work,’” the Hall of Fame defensive lineman said, per the Houston Chronicle. “I look at Jadeveon Clowney’s (game) tape and I don’t see a guy that is playing the game with his hair on fire, making plays, running up and down the field sideline to sideline, doing all of the things. That’s the real issue with me: What else is he doing not waking up? The next job you have is rushing the quarterback, young man, getting ready for the NFL. If you wake up every morning and you’re not ready, prepared to go out and do the things you have to be to be a (defensive) end, outside linebacker, a pass-rushing specialist. What else is there?”
If Sapp was alone in his harsh commentary, he’d be making big news. But those words have been uttered by many, and, as an NFL Network analyst, Sapp is paid to blow buzz-worthy opinions out of his ass whether he’s sincere about them or not. What no one mentions is that Clowney did have legitimate injuries last season and was dealing with defenses that triple-teamed him and forced other South Carolina defenders to make plays. NFL personnel bosses are paid handsomely to ignore the noise and locate the truth, and whether it’s the Texans holding onto the pick or trading it, we’d be shocked if Clowney wasn’t the No. 1 selection.
“It’s been crazy, everybody telling you when you’re going to go in the draft. What your weakness is, what your strength is,’’ said Clowney, who claimed not to know his destination in the final hours preceding Goodellalooza. “There’s a lot of criticism against all the players. It’s just something you’ve got to take on.
“I think I work just as hard as anybody.’’
If the Texans take Clowney, they’ll do so knowing there will be hell to pay if the native Texan himself, Johnny Manziel, becomes a star elsewhere. Never mind that any team taking Clowney is gambling the same way they’d be gambling on Manziel. Texans owner Bob McNair, a University of South Carolina graduate, only confused fans with his pre-draft analysis.
“Really at this point we don’t know and we really won’t know until right up at the time we have to make a decision because people are talking to us about the possibility of trading down and it’s a question of what people offer, whether their offer is such that it’s worthwhile to trade down,’’ McNair said. “You take a guy like Clowney. He’s obviously the best player in the draft, but he’s a defensive end. He’s not a quarterback. If he’s a quarterback and the best player, it’s easy, but that’s not the case. So can that defensive player have a greater impact on the success of your team than one of these quarterbacks? It’s not a sure thing that he is. If somebody wants you to drop down and they give you two or three more picks that would let you get two or three more quality players, are you a stronger team dropping down a little bit, getting these additional picks and getting more depth?’’
Should Atlanta, Buffalo or another team overwhelm the Texans, then, sure, McNair and the boys will take value over Clowney. But then the other issue arises: What if you don’t wind up with Clowney and he becomes a holy terror for another team?
These questions have been batted around for months. Finally, we get answers.
“I’m just ready, man,’’ Clowney said.
This much is certain: Rihanna isn’t taking him.