If you live in the south or are a Southeastern Conference fan, you might have heard of South Carolina Gamecock defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
For those of you who donít know Clowney, heís the college sophomore who would be the number one pick in the NFL draft were he eligible to enter it this April.
At 6 feet, 6 inches tall, 249 pounds and a 40-yard dash time of 4.5 seconds, Clowney is considered one of those once-in-a generation prospects. As a sophomore, he is NFL ready today, tomorrow,† or any time he is eligible to play. But, he wonít be allowed to become a pro next year because the NFL does not allow players to join the league until theyíre three years removed from high school.
Even though Clowney is pro football-ready now, I understand the NFLís stance.† He is the exception, not the rule.
Protecting young players and giving them the opportunity to develop is important. The NFL is a very different game and I respect their position. However, in the same breath, doesnít Clowney have a right to protect his investment too?
Play or not, Clowney is not going to drastically change his draft stock. He canít get projected higher on the draft board. The fact of the matter is that he can only hurt his long-term goals by injury or poor play.
Gamecock running back Marcus Lattimore came back for his senior season even though he was projected as a late, first-round pick his junior year. I donít begrudge him for returning to finish his college education. That was a personal choice. Unfortunately he suffered a devastating knee injury. The recovery and the money that he has lost due to his injury are most likely unrecoverable.
With nothing to gain and everything to lose, Clowney should not only sit out for next season, he should not even stand on the sideline. I understand the commitment he has to South Carolina, but the Jadeveon Clowney story doesnít end with college football ó itís just one chapter in many. If Clowney gets hurt, the university, fans, friends and Family are not going to recoup the money he lost from missing out on the NFL.
I, like many fans, watch Clowney play just because of the potential to see something I never have before. He has Lawrence Taylor potential and if I asked him to stay and play, it would only be for my own selfish reasons. Heís that good.
I know itís not the popular advice, but itís the right advice. If this young manís dream is to play in the NFL, then protect it. Let him borrow a foam finger, a hat and let him sit in the stands. Donít worry, Clowney wonít be there long.