It was the hit that sent shockwaves around the country, won an ESPY and earned South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney instant notoriety.
In the 2013 Outback Bowl, with South Carolina trailing Michigan 22-21 in the fourth quarter, Clowney, delivered a bone-crushing hit to Michigan running back Vincent Smith, a hit so ferocious that Smith’s helmet went flying into the air.
“Coming into the next season after the hit, people were talking about sitting out, and all of this, all of that, and a lot of people [were saying stuff] that was impossible, like 10 sacks a game, 30 tackles for losses. Ya know, I knew that wasn’t going to happen this year, of course, but a lot of people expected that. I’d just rather play my game, play hard, physical football like I was playing my last two years there.”
The hit also sparked a debate about whether sophomores and even younger players should be allowed to enter the draft, or if they should be able to sit out a year in order to avoid injuries before the draft. Clowney said if he had the option of turning pro then, “probably would.”
Truth is, maybe he was ready to play in the NFL a little early, even if the NFL or his plane to the combine weren’t. Clowney’s flight from Columbia, S.C. was delayed, forcing him to drive to Charlotte, N.C. so he could arrive in Indianapolis Friday night.
But he hasn’t let those obstacles or some criticism about his work ethic from former coach Steve Spurrier deter him.
“I don’t really have nothing to say about it. That’s just his opinion…I believe I did work hard. You pull out any practice tape from last year, you’ll see that…I’m always going to be working hard, no matter where I end up.”