One of the most anticipated player appearances at the NFL Combine will be that of Jadeveon Clowney, the supremely gifted defensive end from South Carolina. Among the few players favored to be selected first overall in the upcoming NFL Draft, he possesses natural skills often described as freakish. Clowney is expected to wow both scouts and onlookers during the physical tests and on-field drills at the Combine.
The only question most NFL general managers have is what's going on between Clowney's ears—namely, his drive. Clowney was on the receiving end of criticism last season, as many accused him of quitting on his Gamecocks teammates; and his college coach, Steve Spurrier, recently described his work ethic as "OK."
STACK caught up with Clowney at the EXOS training facility in Gulf Breeze, Fla., where he was preparing for the Combine and the upcoming Draft. We asked him about those criticisms as well as his goals for the Combine.
STACK: You're here at EXOS training for the NFL Combine, but some are wondering: Why risk your standing as one of the top-ranked players in the draft by participating in the Combine?
Jadeveon Clowney: I don't think I'm putting myself at risk. I think I'm giving myself a great opportunity to show what I've got, and show them that I was ready for the time when the time came, and that I wasn't really holding anything back during the season. I want to just show [NFL teams] everything I've got.
STACK: Do you feel as if you have something to prove?
Clowney: Yeah, some guys don't believe the hype about me. I just want to prove that I am an athletically talented young man, and I think I have the ability to do what I want to do on the field.
STACK: What do you think you've improved the most during the past few weeks of training?
Clowney: My [40-Yard Dash] time. I needed to work on my start and the first few steps of the 40 more than anything.
STACK: How is training for the Combine different from your training program in college?
Clowney: When I first got here, the thing I noticed is there are no squat racks. The training was really hands-on, and that was something I liked. But the biggest change has been to my eating habits.
STACK: How have those changed?
Clowney: I was eating a lot of fried foods and eating out. Here, I'm eating healthy foods, vegetables, protein shakes and a lot of other things on the menu that I didn't have back at school.
STACK: What are you looking forward to the most about the Combine?
Clowney: I'm not really worried about the [physical] testing. I'm really going to have to prove myself in the interview room. I'm preparing for a bunch of interviews and a lot of questions about what happened last season. I just want to be prepared for those questions more than anything.
STACK: What do you want NFL teams—the GMs and coaches—to know about you?
Clowney: I want them to know that when you take me, you don't have to worry about me getting in trouble. I am going to work hard for you. I am going to give you everything I've got. You're paying me to work hard for you, and that's what I'm going to do.
STACK: What's your goal for the 40-Yard Dash?
Clowney: I really want to run a 4.4. I ran the same time in college and I want to do it on the big stage. So I hope I can clock a 4.4. I'm saying 4.4 because I've done it before, plenty of times."
STACK: When draft day comes, what are your plans?
Clowney: I got the invite to be in New York, so I want to be there along with my mom and my family. I'm just hoping my name will be called early.
STACK: What has you most excited about playing on Sundays and being in the NFL?
Clowney: Just being there. I've been watching the games all my life, and it's been my goal to play in the NFL. I've been playing this game for a long time, since I was 5 years old. I just really love the game—I never want to not play it, so long as I can play it.
That, and the chance to take care of my mom. She has always been there, and she's always working hard, and I always told her if I have a chance to keep her from working I'm going to do it. So this is my chance to take it to the point where I can help my mom retire from work.
STACK: What do you love most about the game?
Clowney: The fans and the big hits. I love hitting people hard. I take pride in that. It doesn't matter who I'm hitting—linemen, running backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks—I just want to hit somebody hard.
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