When it was announced that South Carolina was going to play Michigan in the Outback Bowl, most people, not named Vincent Smith, immediately flashed back to “The Hit.”
That was they play where Jadeveon Clowney solidified himself as a legend.
Already considered one of the best players in college football, Clowney stamped that reputation as he steamrolled Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl, when the Gamecocks beat the Wolverines, 33-28.
Clowney’s lightning-fast, but brutal tackle separated Smith’s helmet from his head and the ball from the running back’s hands.
Replays were shown on ESPN almost every day, for the year. It was eventually selected as the Play of the Year at the ESPY Awards.
It remains in regular rotation on college football highlight shows and has been played frequently on TV, online and shared on social media since Sunday’s announcement of an Outback Bowl rematch between USC and Michigan.
It has been played so much that viewers are starting to express fatigue from seeing it so frequently. Pretty much anybody who isn’t a Gamecock fan might look to do what Smith couldn’t, and avoid “The Hit.”
But there’s one person who doesn’t have any problems discussing the play. That’s Clowney.
Although he was the top-rated recruit in the nation when he signed with the Gamecocks, was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft and is in the midst of his best season in the NFL, Clowney is forever known for that play in the Outback Bowl.
If anybody was sick of hearing about “The Hit,” again anybody not named Vincent Smith, it would be Clowney.
But Thursday, he said he’s got no problem when people bring up his signature moment on a football field.
“It was a big hit. Still hear about it to this day,” Clowney said to Aaron Wilson, who covers the Texans for the Houston Chronicle. “No, I don’t think I get tired of it.”
Clowney built a strong body of work at USC. During three seasons with the Gamecocks before turning pro, the Rock Hill native was a two-time All-American and two-time All-SEC First Team selection. That includes 2012 when he was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and also won the Ted Hendricks Award.
And one of Clowney’s last plays that season happened to be “The Hit.”
But many people think Houston took him with the top pick in the draft because of the amazing hit. During a promotional appearance on ESPN Radio Tuesday, the president of the Outback Bowl said just that.
“That hit may be what got Clowney the No. 1 overall draft spot,” Jim McVay said.
In spite of Clowney’s impressive résumé, which includes a trip to the 2016 Pro Bowl and almost certainly another selection this season, McVay isn’t alone in that assessment.
I wonder if anyone named Vincent Smith agrees?