Clowney: ‘I want to be the No. 1 pick’

jkendall@thestate.comJanuary 22, 2014 

USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney addresses the crowd at Colonial Life Arena during halftime of Saturday afternoon's basketball game against Ole Miss.

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com

Jadeveon Clowney knows he has something to prove, and he’s eager to get to it.

The former South Carolina defensive end has seen his once widely accepted status as the No. 1 pick in May’s NFL draft threatened by an underwhelming junior season and a draft loaded with teams at the top who need a quarterback. He’s determined in the next four months to prove that he is worth the top selection despite those factors, he told The State.

“It’s because I want to be the No. 1 pick, not the money,” Clowney said in an exclusive interview. “I want to be No. 1.”

That’s why Clowney plans to buck the trend of elite prospects skipping most of the workouts at February’s NFL Combine. Clowney will participate in every drill, he said.

“I am ready. I am upfront. I am not going to hold anything back. I am going to do everything,” he said. “The numbers I am going to put up are going to be amazing.”

Clowney, who predicted he would run a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, has consulted agent Bus Cook on that decision and both agree he should be a full participant at the combine, Clowney said. Cook did not return messages seeking comment on Clowney.

Clowney, who weighs 266 pounds and plans to keep that weight through the combine, is preparing for the draft at Athletes Performance Institute in Gulf Breeze, Fla.

“We are doing a lot of technique, heavy lifting,” he said. “They take care of the body a lot better than we do (in college).”

He attended Tuesday’s practices at the Senior Bowl to meet team personnel but plans to mostly remain a workout hermit between now and the combine.

“Stay low key, keep my face clean and train hard, that’s it,” he said.

Clowney’s selection of Cook as his agent has to be considered a low-key move after multiple reports in the past months suggested he was going to sign with rap star turned business mogul turned agent Jay-Z. Clowney was contacted by Jay-Z and considered signing with him but never met Jay-Z in person, Clowney said.

“It was cool,” Clowney said of talking to Jay-Z. “I loved it, but I felt like Bus was the guy for me.”

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper is predicting Clowney will go No. 3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Houston Texans have the first pick in the draft, and Clowney met the Texans’ new coach, Bill O’Brien, on Tuesday at the Senior Bowl. Houston owner Bob McNair is a South Carolina graduate who recently spoke about Clowney as a possible selection for his team. While praising Clowney’s talent, McNair also raised questions about his work ethic. Clowney would like a chance to address those questions in person, he said.

“When I sit down with (McNair), he will understand,” Clowney said. “I think my work ethic is pretty good. It got better. My last year, I worked harder than anybody on our defense. He will understand when I sit and talk to him.”

On Saturday, Clowney appeared with many of his former Gamecocks teammates at halftime of the men’s basketball game in Colonial Life Arena and recounted the scene from the same event three years before when he made his official recruiting visit to South Carolina.

“Y’all were saying, ‘We want Clowney, we want Clowney,’ ” he said. “This is where I had to be. This was my home for three years, and I loved every bit of it, Go Cocks.”

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