Sometime Thursday, Jadeveon Clowney will hug his mother and step on stage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. He’ll don a cap with an embossed NFL logo, smile, shake commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand and hold up a jersey. This is a process that almost everybody associated with him knew would someday happen.
Yet those who know him best insist that the hoopla – the lights, the cameras and especially the money – won’t change him. There is no plot of land purchased in his native Rock Hill for a future mansion and his mother hasn’t put in two weeks notice at the Charlotte Frito-Lay factory where she has worked for years.
“He never wanted for anything in his life anyway,” said Clowney’s grandfather, John Clowney. “I think he’ll handle it pretty good. We’ve always worked for him to save a little bit of money.”
There is no question that Jadeveon Clowney is about to become a millionaire. Last year’s top pick, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, was rewarded with a $22 million contract, including a $14 million bonus just for signing a piece of paper. Five days after Fisher autographed the sheet, he received a check for $10 million.
Athletics are full of youngsters who receive that kind of money and never get within 100 yards of a bank or safe-deposit box. Fleets of luxury cars, 30-room palaces, tigers roaming the backyard pro sports created the saying, “from the penthouse to the outhouse.”
Of course, some wonder how Clowney will spend his money. Like many players, he has spoken of his wish to get his mother off her feet so she doesn’t have to work anymore. He will certainly have the money to do that and much more if he desires.
But any grandiose plans have not yet been discussed or requested. John, his wife Josephine, their daughter Josenna and other family members traveled to New York on Tuesday with Jadeveon, ready for the moment he has seemed destined for since he first pulled on a helmet.
“He never talked about buying a new car or anything,” John said. “We told him that he didn’t have to worry about it if he didn’t want to. We don’t really discuss money. I’m just glad we’re going to New York to get to see him.”
“We’re just kind of taking it easy until it actually happens,” Josephine said.
Rock Hill has produced more than its share of NFL players, and many have given back to the community while also taking care of their parents. Chris Hope, former Mr. Football at Rock Hill High and an 11-year NFL veteran, has been a beacon of how to do it correctly. Hope started the iCHOPE Fund in Rock Hill to help the community and has been a fixture at charity and public events.
Hope also built a massive house for his family, complete with pool and imported palmetto trees, alongside Highway 5 between Rock Hill and York. Passers-by gawk and wonder if the Clowneys will soon have a new dwelling.
“He talks about that, but I don’t think you’re going to get his momma off Carolina Avenue,” Clowney’s high-school coach, Bobby Carroll, said. “I don’t think they’re going anywhere soon.”
John and Josephine live three houses away from their daughter. Jadeveon was reared in their house as much as he was at his mother’s. Despite their grandson’s impending date with life-changing money, there are no current plans to move.
“That’s his money,” John insists. “We just want him to get a nice small house, a little piece of land for himself.”
Clowney has already made some money from autograph shows and endorsements, but hasn’t gone wild with it. Yes, he and former teammate Stephon Gilmore had front-row seats at a Miami Heat-Charlotte Bobcats playoff game recently, but Clowney also treated Carroll to a seat.
“He’s still the same JD Clowney I knew seven years ago. He’s just a lot bigger and his dreadlocks are longer,” Carroll said. “He’s no different from the guy I met way back then. He texted me the other day, said, ‘Hey Big C, when we going fishing?’ ”
Carroll, like he did for Gilmore, will attend Thursday’s draft. It’s a show of appreciation for what they did for South Pointe High. Once Clowney is selected, a school that was formed in 2005 will have three active NFL players (DeVonte Holloman is the third).
Clowney will be the most famous, as he has been since his sophomore year of high school. Carroll hasn’t seen a swelled head since, or any boasts about what he’s going to buy once he gets his hands on his first paycheck.
“It’s crazy the attention he gets. I mean, LeBron (James) winks at him at the game,” Carroll said. “But it’s no big deal to him. He takes it all in stride.”
Carroll said that Clowney has already started an organization in Rock Hill, the H.I.T. Foundation, which stands for Helping In Time. It’s to aid city youths who don’t have the means to play youth sports or have the kind of stable environment like Clowney had growing up.
There’s pride in Carroll’s voice as he speaks about Clowney giving back.
“I’m glad to see the final chapter to the Clowney story. It’s hopefully the beginning chapter of a great NFL career,” Carroll said. “But he’s still Jadeveon. He won’t change from the kid we all knew.”
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