When the 2014 NFL Draft rolled around on May 8, there was no doubt as to who would be the number one pick. During his three years at the University of South Carolina, Jadeveon Clowney performed athletic feats that many would not have thought possible. His explosiveness off the line and ability to rush the passer vaulted him to national prominence in quick fashion, especially as his sophomore year came to a close. However, in his junior and final year at USC, many began to question Clowney’s work ethic as he finished the season with only three sacks and generally showed a lack of effort. One NFL executive had harsh criticism for Clowney, stating, “He’s spoiled, and he’s lazy. He’s never worked hard a day in his life, now all of a sudden you’re going to give him a bunch of money and expect him to work hard. I don’t see it.”
New news, however, may shine light as to why Clowney seemed so complacent during his last year in college football.
In an interview with NFL Media’s Gil Brandt this week, Clowney stated that he played through a sports hernia during his final season at South Carolina, surprising everyone, including the Texans organization.
Jadeveon Clowney told @Gil_Brandt he played w/ the sports hernia all last year. And that the surgery for it was his first ever operation.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) June 26, 2014
At the time, Clowney had no idea that his injury was so serious:
Agent Bus Cook said Clowney thought he had a groin injury and played thru it. Thought bout sitting out pro day cause of it but was terrific.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) June 26, 2014
Rather than continuing to play through the injury and potentially developing further complications, Clowney and the Texans decided the best course of action was to go ahead and have a sports hernia surgery: “I was kind of upset, because I would get behind. But Coach (Bill O’Brien) was like, ‘Just let it get better now than later on, when you might be out during the season.’ So we’ll just take the time to get it right now,” reported Clowney.
For the Texans, Clowney’s time off the field may be a blessing in disguise. Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has unusual plans for the former defensive lineman, which mainly consist of playing him at outside linebacker.
“I fully expect that he will be an outside linebacker initially. He’ll start in a two-point stance, but anytime we go into any kind of package, whether it’s a third down package or a packaged predicated on personnel, down and distance, all those things give Romeo (Crennel) the ability to have him put his hand in the dirt and go get the passer,” stated Texans GM Rick Smith.
Considering Clowney is going to have to learn an entirely new position and memorize a full NFL playbook, this time in rehab could pay huge dividends to his learning curve once the NFL season begins.
Despite the surgery and the subsequent rehab, Clowney is still expected to participate in training camp at the end of July.
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