South Carolina Football: Why Jadeveon Clowney Is the Greatest Gamecock Ever
There has been no shortage of conversation swirling around South Carolina superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney after he once again made his mark on a game against Tennessee.
Even before that, just the mention of the word Clowney made offensive coordinators and quarterbacks across the SEC shiver and many Gamecock fans beam ear to ear.
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo!Sports went so far as to promote the ultra-talented sophomore as a potential Heisman candidate.
But where does Mr. "Man-Child" belong in the conversation of the all-time greatest players ever to roll through Columbia?
One could make a legitimate argument that there has never been better.
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The South Carolina Mr. Football award is given to the state’s top-rated high school player as voted on by coaches and media members alike.
When the Gamecocks inked Clowney, that made three consecutive years of Spurrier and Co. landing the top in-state recruit.
But Clowney was more than that.
Ranked the No. 1 recruit in the entire country at any position, Clowney has caused a ripple effect in the recruiting realm, and Steve Spurrier is not afraid to admit it.
The impact that comes with signing the highest-rated recruit in the nation can’t be overstated.
Hence, it was no surprise when South Carolina signed the state’s top recruit the following year in receiver Shaq Roland.
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Watch any South Carolina game and you won’t be able to miss No. 7 on the defensive line.
While Clowney has always been a physical specimen (6’6", 256 lbs), what really separates him from other defensive ends is his work ethic.
Regardless of the score, down or distance, Clowney is relentless in his pursuit of the ball-carrier.
While many fans and pundits will point to him leapfrogging would-be blockers during the Georgia game, perhaps more impressive was his performance during the 11-44 thrashing the Gamecocks took down in "The Swamp."
Despite being down on the scoreboard early on, thanks to three South Carolina turnovers, Clowney still produced four tackles and a sack.
The stat line in itself is not overly impressive, but the fact that he still battled throughout the game, which was basically decided before halftime, says a lot about his character.
His neverending pursuit of the ball-carrier coupled with his incredible physical gifts make offenses account for him on every single play, which creates opportunities for other Gamecock defenders to make plays.
His work ethic on and off the field sets the tone for the rest of the team.
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With such a stellar start to his collegiate career, Jadeveon Clowney is on pace to shatter not only team records, but SEC and national records as well.
In 22 career games, Clowney has compiled 27 tackles for loss, 16.5 of which were sacks.
While the current SEC career sack leader also hailed from South Carolina (Eric Norwood, 2006-2009), Clowney is on pace to break the record in only three years.
Twenty-two games in and he’s already tied for No. 18 on the SEC's all-time list!
While the NCAA career sack total (36) may be out of reach for the sophomore, I certainly wouldn't bet against him.
If Clowney’s numbers surpass those of the greatest pass-rusher in South Carolina history, it certainly is not far-fetched to list him as the greatest Gamecock of all time.
Another defining character trait of Clowney is his propensity for making big plays in the biggest of moments.
Many South Carolina fans will recall him dusting the Georgia offensive line and slinging quarterback Aaron Murray around like a rag doll in what must be considered his breakout game of the 2011 season.
The resulting touchdown proved to be the game-winner and just wouldn't have had the same effect if it had happened in the first quarter.
This year, Clowney struck again two weeks ago against Tennessee.
With less than two minutes left, Volunteer quarterback Tyler Bray dropped back hoping to at least get his team in field-goal range to take the game to overtime.
No. 7 for the Gamecocks clearly had other ideas, as you can see from the video above from GamecocksOnline.com.
Clowney’s knack for making the big play in the clutch moments is what makes him the most memorable, if not the greatest, Gamecock of all time.