South Carolina Football: Gamecocks Will Continue to Benefit from Clowney

Charles BennettContributor IJanuary 23, 2014

Jadeveon Clowney holds the Capital One Bowl Trophy after playing his last game for South Carolina.
Jadeveon Clowney holds the Capital One Bowl Trophy after playing his last game for South Carolina.Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBIA, S.C.His college career may be over, but don't be surprised if South Carolina's football program continues to reap the benefits from Jadeveon Clowney's association with the school for years to come.

Even though he's already left school to begin preparations for what is potentially a long, prosperous career in the NFL, it was a positive sign that Clowney was on hand last week when the football team was honored at halftime of the Gamecocks' basketball game with Ole Miss.

Don't take that as a given he would attend.

He could have easily blown it off, saying he was too busy preparing for the NFL combine.

But there he was, on the biggest football recruiting weekend of the year, doing what he could to help the Gamecocks' recruiting efforts.

It may seem like a small thing, but it's not.

However, that's only the beginning. Consider that Clowney's star potential is not only enormous but that he seems intent on pursuing it with maximum effort.

At present, he's working out at Athletes' Performance Institute in Gulf Breeze, Fla., preparing for the combine.

While projected high draft picks typically avoid participating in the combine or do so on a limited basis, Clowney plans to do every drill.

A 6'6'', 266-pound defensive end, Clowney's ambition is to be the No. 1 player in the draft.

"I'm ready," Clowney told Josh Kendall of The State. "I'm upfront. I'm not going to hold anything back. I am going to do everything. The numbers I'm going to put up are going to be amazing."

His marketing potential is enormous, especially for a defensive player. When his hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in last year's Outback Bowl vaulted him into social media super stardom and earned him an ESPY Award for Play of the Year, he handled all the attention well.  

He doesn't seem like the type to be distracted by success. Except for a couple of recent speeding tickets, he has avoided trouble.

Advertising people like that.

A small barometer of Clowney's marketing potential comes via one of South Carolina's bookstores, where a sales associate confirmed that Clowney's No. 7 jersey was far and away the store's biggest seller.

While that may seem obvious, remember that Connor Shaw just finished a career that is generally considered the best in history for a Gamecock quarterback.

Sales of Shaw's No. 14 jersey didn't even come close to matching Clowney's.

The bigger the star Clowney becomes, the better for South Carolina.

Perhaps the greatest example in all of sports is what Michael Jordan did for the North Carolina basketball brand.

This is not to suggest that Clowney possesses that kind of star power, but a mere fraction of it would go a long way toward continuing to improve the national image of South Carolina football.

There's a lot to be said for that.