South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is no stranger to scrutiny.
From the moment he signed with the Gamecocks in February 2011 as the consensus No. 1 prospect in the country, lofty expectations have been an everyday part of his life. Clowney has lived up to those expectations at every turn.
In only his second game with the Gamecocks, he played a major role in one of the biggest plays of South Carolina's 45-42 win over Georgia, sacking and forcing a fumble by Aaron Murray which Melvin Ingram picked up in the end zone with 3:13 left to seal the deal.
From that point on, the aura of Clowney has grown at virtually every turn.
He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting after a stellar sophomore campaign that saw him post 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. To celebrate, all he did was destroy Michigan's Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl and live on SportsCenter for an entire offseason.
The PR generated from that hit has elevated Clowney from a superstar to a superhero. He's handling the pressure well, according to Michael Haney of 107.5 in Columbia, S.C.
Clowney on his hype:"I'm about tired of it. Ready to go play, man. Show people what I got."— Michael Haney (@Haney1075) August 4, 2013
Clowney: "Every little thing I do is something big. I just get a laugh out of it. Just having fun with it."— Michael Haney (@Haney1075) August 4, 2013
Clowney: "I'm not changing. I just have fun with the media. Give 'em a story, they run with it. You guys love it...It's funny to me."— Michael Haney (@Haney1075) August 4, 2013
Humble, confident and having fun. That's the way to do it.
The world got a glimpse of this laid-back confidence at SEC Media Days when Clowney was asked if he could stop Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel if the two met each other in open space.
It isn't arrogance with Clowney. It's confidence. He knows that he's a superstar, and welcoming it comes with the deal even if he does get tired of the spotlight at times.
As opposed to Manziel, who appears to be buckling under the pressure as the summer comes to a close, Clowney is enjoying it. Would it be news if some no-named defensive lineman flipped a blocking sled like Clowney did over the weekend?
But when Clowney does it, it's the work of a superhero.
He's in for a interesting season.
It isn't just the media spotlight that will shine bright on the 6'6", 274-pounder. He'll be featured prominently in film rooms of opposing offenses in the weeks leading up to games against South Carolina.
If Clowney gets frustrated at times with the attention paid to him on the field this season, will his attitude change? Probably not.
As long as he stays healthy, he knows that he'll hear his name called early in the 2014 NFL draft. That much is clear with his quiet confidence.
Until then, he's approaching what will almost undoubtedly be his final season in Columbia with a refreshing attitude and perspective. Hopefully that doesn't change.
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