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Earning stripes on the field

Call me old school, but I think athletes should have to earn their stripes when they get to a new level.

Nix that - everybody must prove their worth when given a new situation.

Cliff Ellis was an old dog when he came to Coastal Carolina University. He took Clemson and Auburn to different heights. But his goal when taking over CCU's basketball was to put the school on the map. Four short years later, the program is on the doorstep of cracking the AP Top 25.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a fantastic college career at Cal. He was actually a little bit of a hot-head in college. But he's allowed to talk there -- he proved himself on the field. But in the NFL he didn't say a word as he waited a number of years for Brett Favre to retire. Packers' brass finally handed him the keys to the Jeep and after a couple of short years at the wheel, Rodgers is driving to Disney World.

Even I, as I new sports writer for Surge, have to earn my stripes. Without a doubt through one full month I have proven to you that I'm worthy of at least the price of this publication.

Now to my point, what's up with National Signing Day?

Last week, thousands of high school athletes signed a letter of intent to get some sort of education paid for by a respected college institution. The WBTW viewing area was lucky enough to have seven football players move on to play at major, Division I universities.

I'm not a fan of the three-hats-on-a-table setup with said television host buzzing up way too much drama about the anticlimactic and infamous hat raise with ensuing applause. "The Decision" backfired on LeBron James, and it surely doesn't paint the picture of a high school athlete being humble when deciding his future in front of a TV camera.

For the most part, these high school athletes are 25-30 pounds away being in BCS conference shape. A high school athlete's training regimen is a far cry from what it takes to win an ACC or SEC title.

The chances of a scholarship-winning high school senior making a true impact his true freshman season is truly slim. I know, Duncan native Marcus Lattimore did it, but that's why his story is even better to tell. He didn't hype up how good he was. He showed how good he was. The tailback only spoke of hard work this season and how good he thought he was coming in, compared to how good he had to be in order to play on Saturdays.

So that brings me to Rock Hill's Jadaveon Clowney. He's six-foot-six, strong as an ox, fast as a tailback playing on the defensive line. Anyone that's seen him play knows he's a game changer. You can't say one bad thing about his play on the field, but what his parents are allowing him to do leading into college raises questions with me

Clowney elected not to sign on the dotted line until Feb. 14, which happens to be his birthday. He then hit the media circuit harder than Hillary Clinton in 2008. Clowney has talked with ESPN, The New York Times, Sporting News and all the Rivals.com sites among others on a daily basis. And sadly enough, there's grown men - fans - who cling to his every word.

I'm all for everyone getting their 15-minutes of fame, or in Clowney's case, 15 days of fame. But talk about the enormous pressure that will be on this young man's shoulders next year at school. Being the top overall recruit, plus tugging at the heartstrings of a number of universities' fans means you have to perform. You have to be fast enough, strong enough and smart enough to play in the ACC or SEC. Clowney will have a superstar persona right away and then have to line up with a college offensive lineman that could be up to five years older than him.

"But Jeff, he's a can't miss, five-star guy!" you say.

Remember Ryan Leaf? He was the can't-miss-quarterback.

Kwame Brown, yeah, another top overall pick but in the NBA draft. The list goes on and on.

All the 40-yard-dash times, squat, leg and chest presses say Clowney will make a difference. But for me, until he earns his stripes at the next level in a game, let's take it down a notch.

Or seven.

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