Jadeveon Clowney: From Gamecocks to Texans, from Uncertainty to Pro Bowl
Jadeveon Clowney was a star high school football player for South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Finishing his high school career with a 38-6 record, a State Championship, and 69.5 sacks, Clowney committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks on his birthday as the consensus number one overall high school player in the country.
Already being a monster coming out of high school, being listed at 6’6” and at 240lbs, Clowney would be a day one starter for the Gamecocks against the East Carolina Pirates. He would finish the season with 36 tackles, 12 for a loss, eight sacks, and five forced fumbles, earning second team All-SEC as a true freshman. As a sophomore, he would have a breakout season after finishing the season with 54 tackles, 23.5 four a loss, 13 sacks, and three forced fumbles. He would finish as a first-team All-American and a first-team All-SEC selection. He would also pull in the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the best defense end in college football, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and finishing sixth in the 2012 Heisman Trophy voting.
His junior season, and final year in college, would be a tumulus one. Early reports that Clowney would sit out the year in order to keep himself from suffering a serious injury began to surface. These reports came out just a season after Gamecocks star running back Marcus Lattimore dislocated his knee and tore every ligament in it, severely damaging his draft stock and costing him millions of dollars, and eventually leading to an early retirement.
Clowney would have a down year, finishing with just 39 tackles, 11.5 sacks, three sacks, and a forced fumble after his huge sophomore year. He would also choose to sit out games, at the dismay and frustration of then-Head Coach Steve Spurrier, against the Kentucky Wildcats and Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. His down year, compiled with him choosing to sit out two games, brought question marks about his work ethic. However, it would not affect his draft stock in the slightest.
On May 8th, 2014, the Houston Texans would select Clowney with the number one overall pick in the draft, ahead of future Pro-Bowlers such as linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack, linebacker Anthony Barr, offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. At the time, Clowney was seen as having the most upside due to his raw ability, but he did not fit the Texans 3-4 mold. The Texans, however, seen the upside and went with him as their future behind superstar J.J. Watt, and alongside middle linebacker Brian Cushing.
The expected immediate impact would be short-lived early on in Clowney’s career, however, as he would exit his rookie year just a quarter into his first game after tearing his meniscus. He would return in week eight against the Tennessee Titans before being forced to sit out the Texans week nine matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. He would return again in week 11, facing off against the Cleveland Browns and be healthy enough for their week 12 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. However, following the Texans loss to the Bengals in week 12, Clowney’s season was shut down as he was forced to undergo more surgery to repair his knee.
In his second year with the Texans, Clowney looked pedestrian to start the year after registering just nine starts in thirteen appearances. However, he would help lead the Texans to a rare playoff berth, albeit a 30-0 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. The way he ended his second year is just how he would enter his third, with a fire lit under himself. He would help lead a J.J. Watt-less Texans defense to their second straight playoff appearance, this one against the Oakland Raiders, while helping lead the defense to a number one overall ranking at seasons end. In games in which
In games in which Clowney recorded a sack during the 2016 season, the Texans were 6-0, including three straight to end the season and earn their way into the playoffs. He would also earn his first Pro Bowl appearance since being drafted and looks to be the star that he was for his sophomore year at South Carolina.