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Even jumping bags, Clowney wows 'em

4/3/2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Between the ponytail that hung from the back of his helmet to the imaginary six-shooters he pulled after big plays, Steve Taneyhill became quite good at wowing the fans during his freshman season of 1992 at the University of South Carolina.

But he never had a "wow" moment quite like he witnessed on Wednesday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Taneyhill, his hair much shorter and his physique much fuller, was only a few feet away when a coach lined up six blocking bags for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to jump flatfooted during a drill at South Carolina's pro day.

Clowney did it with ease.

So the coach lined up a seventh, saying he'd never seen anybody jump flatfooted over that many.

Clowney did.

He made it look easy.

The 6-foot-6, 266-pound defensive end then swooped up a pair of tennis balls and completed that drill as effortlessly as he did every other drill with representatives from 30 of 32 NFL teams looking on.

Taneyhill, now the head coach of Union (S.C.) High School, stood there and shook his head.

"Just wow!" he said.

Every team in the NFL needs a "wow" player, but none more than the Houston Texans, who have the first pick of the draft. As Clowney reminded, he has never been a part of a losing team and South Carolina never won more than 10 games before he arrived.

The Gamecocks were 11-2 every year he was there.

The Atlanta Falcons would like Clowney to fall to them at No. 6, but that seems like a long shot at best. And if he does, there may be five teams regretting the decision a few years from now.

Clowney seems like the most sure thing in this draft. He is a freak of nature as a pass-rusher, even though his three sacks this past season after 21 in his first two sent up red flags.

The Texans would like Clowney to play outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. Having him line up in a three-point stance in front of a tackle or tight end is scary enough. Having him line up with a running start would be downright terrifying.

Former Carolina Panthers guard Travelle Wharton, a starting left tackle his senior season at South Carolina in 2003, was among those wowed by Clowney's workout.

At 32, Wharton is leaning toward retirement. The thought of facing Clowney playing outside linebacker might speed up the process.

"That's going to be tough for a lot of tackles," Wharton said. "He's got the raw talent. If he stays healthy, he's going to be a big-time player in the league."

And that poor-work-ethic thing that people keep questioning Clowney about? Wharton didn't see any signs of it.

"I've been through this process," he said. "If you're not in shape, it will show."

Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb has been through it, too. Working as a television analyst on this sun-splashed day, he said the work ethic questions are "garbage to me."

He said Clowney has the "wow" factor teams are looking for.

"He has the speed, the tenacity," McNabb said. "When he wants to turn it on he can be the most dominant guy in the league."

Clowney is so excited about the future that he wished they had been in pads on Wednesday so he could hit somebody.

He had to settle for jumping over pads.

And even that created a wow moment.