INDIANAPOLIS -- South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has set high goals for himself.
Rated as perhaps the most physically gifted player available in the 2014 National Football League draft, Clowney wants to be the first player selected.
With the Houston Texans in control of the No. 1 pick, there has been talk of the team taking the 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive lineman and teaming him with Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
“That’s one of my goals here, to go No. 1. I came out of high school as the No. 1 player (in the nation) so I want to come out of here as the No. 1 guy,” Clowney said Saturday at the NFL Combine.
He has impressive physical tools.
Clowney, who has drawn comparisons to former Buffalo defensive end Bruce Smith, has an 83-inch wingspan. He also has 34 ½-inch arms.
But it’s what he does on the field that counts. Questions about his willingness to play hard all the time continue to persist, especially after comments from Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier came to light.
Clowney, though, wants to prove his doubters wrong.
“I believe I did work hard. You pull out any practice tape from last year, you’ll see that. That’s what I told them. I’ll tell everybody that. I will always be working hard. No matter where I end up I am going to work hard and give a team everything I’ve got,” he said.
His reaction to what Spurrier had to say?
“I don’t really have nothing to say about it,” Clowney said.
So what can he offer NFL teams besides some very impressive measurables?
“My speed, of course. I’m a fast guy, quick, move well. Just my speed. Strength-wise, I am pretty strong also, just need to work on my pad leverage,” Clowney said.
Cloney said he “hopefully” would run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.
“I know I am going to run a low 4.5 if I don’t run a 4.4. I’m hoping 4.4,” he said while acknowledging that he is far from a finished product.
Clowney has heard the talk that Houston may decide to take a quarterback with the first pick. He wants to give the Texans something else to think about.
“It’s going to happen or it’s not. They are going to take who they need and who they want. I am going to perform well here at the combine and hope they choose me. I know (Texas A&M quarterback) Johnny is a good athlete. Everybody out here knows that. The guy can play. He’s a great college football player in his three years at Texas A&M. I believe Johnny is a great player and a great athlete,” he stressed.
“I believe that once I get to the NFL, it’s going to be up on my career. I just want to be the best, one of the greatest of all time. The NFL is just the next level, stepping stone in my way. Coming out of high school, I said I wanted to be one of the best in college and I think I proved that. Going to the NFL, I want to be one of the best in the NFL, go down in history as one of the best. So I have another stepping stone in my way and hopefully take care of business and accomplish that in the NFL.”
As good as Manziel, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater or Central Florida’s Blake Bortles are, Clowney is intent on reminding prospective NFL suitors that defense wins championships.
“The Super Bowl, (Seattle’s) defense won that game, shut them down, shut them out. It takes defense to win championships, hands down. You had a great quarterback in (Denver’s) Peyton Manning, hats off to him also, but defense wins the Super Bowl,” he said.
This Road to the Draft segment is driven by Liberty Ford.