As Jadeveon Clowney pulled himself awkwardly from a pit of plastic balls Wednesday, it was easy to forget he’s a 21-year-old man a day away from a multi-million dollar payday.
Clowney and 29 other NFL Draft prospects here to attend Thursday night’s first round participated Wednesday in an NFL Play60 event, taking local school children through football drills. Clowney’s first assignment was designed to teach proper tackling form by having children dive into a ball pit.
Clowney, who worked the station with former Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, couldn’t help but test out the pit before he got started.
“This might be the funnest part of the day,” Clowney said. “The rest is just business.”
The business begins in earnest Thursday at 8 p.m. when the draft’s first round will begin at Radio City Music Hall. Clowney is widely expected to be the No. 1 overall selection, although several analysts think Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack could be the top pick, which is held by the Houston Texans.
“It’s been a long week, but the time is going to come,” Clowney said. “I have been waiting this long. I can wait another day. I have never felt like this. I just know my life is going to change.”
Clowney was a two-time All-American at South Carolina and finished with 24 sacks, 47 tackles-for-loss, nine forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in three collegiate seasons.
“It’s a very special moment, not only for me but for my family, my school back at Carolina, my high school,” Clowney said. “I think my whole city, town everybody is right behind me, Tweeting me, texting me. I just know I have a lot of support and I am happy.”
Former NFL personnel executive Gil Brandt, who has Mack rated just ahead of Clowney, attended Wednesday’s event.
“If you are grading somebody on consistency, Mack is the more consistent player. If you’re grading them just projecting them, Clowney’s the guy,” Brandt said. “Clowney is the guy that is either going to get you fired or get you an extension. I don’t think there is anything in between.”
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who could be a wildcard No. 1 selection, wanted no part in choosing between Clowney and Mack.
“I think they both will be very successful,” Manziel said. “They are both freakishly talented. It’s not up to me to decide.”
Clowney hasn’t heard any leaks of the Texans’ plans for the selection, he said. The last time Houston had the No. 1 pick it began negotiations with its choice, defensive end Mario Williams, the night before the draft.
“I have no idea,” Clowney said. “Do you know? Anybody know, let me know.”
In addition to spreading the word about the NFL’s fitness initiative, Wednesday was also about taking care of last-minute draft business. At one point, an NFL employee came up to Clowney, Watkins and Mack and asked what song they wanted to be played when they walk onto the stage after their selection. Clowney originally picked “Handsome and Wealthy” by Migos but switched after he, Mack and Watkins debated who should have which song. Clowney did not reveal his final choice.
As for what he’ll be feeling when he hears that music Thursday night, Clowney couldn’t predict.
“I’ll probably look something like this (mouth open),” he said. “I’ll be happy. I’m just ready man. You can’t really explain that moment I don’t think, how you are going to feel. It’s just going to happen.”
He predicted the Texans would not pass on him but said he won’t be upset if he falls to the No. 2 or No. 3 selection.
“I am just blessed to be here,” he said. “For me to be even up here with these guys and even have the chance to go No. 1 is the greatest thing in the world I believe.”