Jadeveon Clowney spent four hours here Tuesday at SEC Media Days introducing the conference to the man behind “The Hit.”
South Carolina’s junior defensive end joined head coach Steve Spurrier and teammates Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington as the Gamecocks representatives on the first day of SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel, where he talked about his chances to win the Heisman Trophy, ripped Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, posed shirtless for photos, impersonated his head coach multiple times, verified his 4.46 40-yard dash time and answered question after question about his crushing blow against Michigan running back Vincent Smith.
“I have never seen anything like this,” he said at one point. “I have never seen this many cameras in my whole life.”
Clowney was one of 12 SEC players to circulate through Tuesday’s event, but at times it seemed like he was the only one in the building.
“Everything that has happened to me is just the greatest thing ever,” Clowney said. “I am blessed to be where I am now, and I am just going to continue doing what I have been doing.”
Clowney, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound Rock Hill native, arrived at the hotel along with the rest of South Carolina’s traveling party at 4:20 p.m. Eastern Time and didn’t board a shuttle to head back to the airport and a charter flight home until 8:02 p.m. In between, he took part in 17 different breakout interview sessions, including a live television appearance on ESPNU.
His rest was short lived. Clowney will board a plane at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning to fly to Los Angeles to appear at ESPN’s ESPY awards.
Clowney was followed throughout the day Tuesday by South Carolina senior associate athletics director Charles Bloom, a reporter and photographer from The State, a representative from the SEC and a plainclothes Hoover police officer.
“I like that I’ve been assigned as ‘security’ for him. If he can’t handle it, who am I?’” the officer quipped early in the day.
While Clowney maintained his smile throughout the day, Spurrier grew weary early on with the pace. Less than an hour into the day, Spurrier encountered Clowney in a hallway and said, “Keep him moving, keep him moving. Y’all were in there too long. JD, don’t let them keep you so long.”
Nobody could seem to get enough, though. Clowney drew laughs in every room he entered. Some of those came at Spurrier’s expense as Clowney was asked for, and delivered, a Spurrier impersonation for several groups of media members.
“That squeaky voice,” Clowney called it.
“Coach Spurrier is going to kill me,” he said as he exited the stage headed for his next destination.
Asked if he could win the Heisman Trophy, Clowney replied “Why not?” He also addressed summer speculation that he might skip his junior season in order to avoid injury prior to the NFL draft, saying he “never” considered it. As for whether the Gamecocks should have any hope that he will return for his senior season, Clowney replied: “Heck no.”
The most interesting moment of the day came when Clowney was asked about Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and replied that Boyd was “scared” when he faced the Gamecocks, a comment that is sure to add fire to the already heated in-state rivalry.
Most of his talk was lighthearted, though. For instance, it takes 90 minutes to do his hair into the intricate weave of dreadlocks he was sporting Tuesday. (He also admitted spending an hour under the hairdryer at his barber shop.) Speaking of that hair, opponents sometimes try to use it to slow down Clowney, he said.
“Guys grab my dreads,” he said. “I had three of them pulled out in the Michigan game. I was mad about that. I told the guy, ‘If you keep pulling on my hair, we are going to have a problem out here.’ People pull my dreads all the time.”
As for his blazing speed, Clowney confirmed he ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash on Monday morning, saying he promised roommate Chaz Sutton the night before that his time would be lower than 4.5 seconds.
“He said, ‘You’re lying.’ I said, ‘Watch me,’” Clowney said.
The biggest talking point, though, was Clowney’s hit in the Outback Bowl, when he forced and recovered a fumble by Smith to spark the Gamecocks’ come-from-behind win. The play, known as “The Hit,” became a staple of ESPN replays.
“At first, I was like, ‘I did that.’ Now I’m like, ‘Is that still going?’” Clowney said.
He has not talked to Smith since the play, although he tried, he said.
“I need to talk to him,” Clowney said. “I’d be like, ‘How you feel man?’”
Clowney’s final duty was a 30-minute photo session in which he posed in his familiar Gamecocks No. 7 jersey and shirtless. As he walked out of the photo session, struggling to get back into his shirt, tie and suit jacket, Clowney eyed himself in the elevator mirror.
“Look a mess now,” he said.
When he exited that elevator, he had to run one final gauntlet to get through dozens of fans assembled in the hotel lobby trying to get autographs and pictures. More than a dozen of those fans followed Clowney outside and pressed themselves against the van he entered, begging for one more signature or photo.
Spurrier put a stop to that.
“Everybody out,” he said, prying fans out of the door, “out kids, gotta go, gotta go, gotta go back to Columbia.”