WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Jadeveon Clowney had a career season in 2016, but even coming off of a successful campaign, the Houston Texans outside linebacker doesn't have to think too far back to find motivation to keep getting better.
“I keep [a chip] on my shoulder," Clowney said. "I know where I was a couple years ago, how people talked about me. So every day I step on the field, I just take that and put it in the back of my head and grind and work through everything I got going on that day.
“I don’t care what’s going on or how the weather is or how the day’s been, how my body feels -- I just come here to work. When I’m on the field, just get the work in and then go about my business, play on and take care of myself.”
Clowney was the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, but he missed 12 games in 2014 and three more in 2015 due to injury. And when he couldn't stay on the field, he heard time and time again that he was a wasted pick. He heard that people were calling him a bust.
Clowney says he thinks he will always keep that chip on his shoulder for motivation, but the success he had last season has helped as well. In 2016, Clowney had a career-high six sacks and 52 tackles, including 16 for loss. His breakout year came at an important time for the Texans, who were without three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, who was put on injured reserve three games into the season after he reinjured his back.
Playing well last season, Clowney said, not only has left him hungry for more success but also has boosted his confidence.
“It’s a confidence builder," Clowney said. "It really makes me work harder to try to reach another level of my game, take it to another level. So this year, I’m really trying to build on last year and be a better player and help the team out more than I did the season before."
Last season, the Texans found Clowney's production and versatility valuable. Clowney's coaches moved him around the field, playing him at outside linebacker and defensive end. Texans coach Bill O'Brien said that's what you have to do with your best players, or the other coaching staffs around the league would pick up on tendencies if you lined that player up at the same position on every snap.
But even after a season in which he was named to his first Pro Bowl, Clowney said he has a long way to go when he was asked if it feels special to prove his doubters wrong.
"I've honestly got a lot more to do," Clowney said. "I think I’m just starting off. That was just really my rookie year to me, last year. I was just really getting rolling in this league, and I think I can be even better than I was last year.”