Clowney's focus is where it should be

When you’re as freakishly talented as Jadeveon Clowney, the spotlight can be overwhelming at times.

South Carolina’s star defensive end hasn’t been able to escape it ever since last season ended. Even in today’s game, where football players are bigger, stronger and faster, Clowney is the ultimate attraction.

When No. 7 comes to your stadium next season, here’s a tip: He’s worth the price of admission.

But having spent some time with Clowney last week in Columbia, S.C., he’s not one of those guys who craves attention. In fact, he’s been hesitant to do a lot of national interviews this spring because that’s really not his thing. His thing is delivering game-changing hits.

“Sometimes it’s nice just to be a regular guy,” Clowney said.

That’s a tough one when you’re barely 20 years old and already have NFL teams drooling over you. It’s even harder when you know that you would have been the No. 1 overall pick in the draft this year had you been eligible to come out.

Put yourself in Clowney’s shoes for a moment. He has some advising him to sit out his junior season (to avoid potential injury) and then enter the 2014 draft. He also has all this Heisman Trophy talk swirling and everybody wondering if he can be the first purely defensive player to win college football’s most prestigious individual award.

And on top of it all, everywhere he turns, he has a new best friend or somebody trying to board the Clowney train before it takes off for the Land of Riches.

These next nine months will be trying, for sure, and Clowney knows it. He also knows that he will be painted in a light from time to time that’s not completely accurate.

When somebody has asked him about the Heisman Trophy, he’s answered truthfully.

He absolutely thinks he can win it, just like he thinks he can beat any offensive tackle alive. But he’s not out there campaigning for the award, not in the least bit.

The only time it came up in our conversation last week was when I asked him about it.

He understands what a Heisman Trophy would mean to his teammates and the entire program. But there’s something else that he’d rather bring to the Gamecocks, who had never won 11 games in a season until Clowney arrived on campus. They've now done it each of the last two seasons.

“I came here for a reason, to win and do things that had never been done before,” Clowney said. “I didn’t just come here to be a part of a program and play football for a couple of years and win some awards. We all wanted to be the group to turn this program into one that’s going to win for a long time.

“We just keep getting better and better, and eventually, we’re going to get over the top and win a championship.”