Commentary

How Jadeveon Clowney got here

From his start as RB to his decision on Monday, a look at Clowney's recruiting journey

Originally Published: February 11, 2011
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

The race to land Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe DE Jadeveon Clowney, the nation's No. 1 prospect, has truly been a marathon, which will officially come to an end Monday during a live announcement on ESPN's "SportsCenter" at 10:15 a.m. ET. Here's a look back at the recruitment of the five-star prospect.

Clowney started as a running back
As a freshman, Clowney was a 6-foot-3, 200-pound running back who scored 36 touchdowns for the Stallions' ninth-grade team. He also played exceptionally well at defensive end and was bumped up to the varsity late that fall. He was a major contributor on special teams during the playoffs.

During spring drills for the 2008 season, Clowney, still just a freshman, played on the varsity and became a permanent fixture at defensive end.

"Over that summer, he lifted weights and did all the things we asked of him," said Bobby Carroll, his coach at South Pointe. "We knew we had something special. He was 13 years old in that big athletic body. He was wreaking havoc on our offense that spring and fall. It got to the point where we couldn't execute, and we had Stephon Gilmore [later named Mr. Football in South Carolina] as our quarterback. Every day he just blew everything up."

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
David Allio/Icon SMIEveryone made a run for Jadeveon Clowney, but he's down to his final three of Alabama, Clemson and South Carolina.
A Michigan man?
In the fall of 2008, Clowney's sophomore year, then-Michigan assistant coach Tony Gibson was recruiting Gilmore. The Wolverines wanted him as a quarterback to run their zone read in Ann Arbor.

"For some reason, Clowney expressed a great interest then to go to Michigan," Carroll said. "Once Gibson was here and saw him, he offered Jadeveon on the spot. That was his first verbal scholarship offer."

Clowney helped Gilmore and South Pointe to a state championship in 2008. He played nearly the entire season with a bone spur in his foot. Clowney finished with 17 sacks as a sophomore and elected to have surgery on the bone spur in January 2009.

Junior achievement
Things really started heating up for Clowney in 2009. Despite the loss of 31 seniors, Clowney led South Pointe to the state semifinals, where it lost to Rock Hill Northwestern. Clowney finished the season with 24.5 sacks.

On Sept. 1, the first day juniors can receive written scholarship offers, Clowney was slammed with offers.

"The first one I remember seeing was Penn State," Carroll said. "I believe they were the first to get it across [the fax]. I do know that South Carolina, Clemson and Alabama were not too far behind them. Schools always sent two, one to his house and one to the [high] school."

Later that month, he went to the University of Georgia for an unofficial visit when the Dawgs beat the Gamecocks.

"I took him to see Stephon [Gilmore] and DeVonte Holloman [another former teammate who signed with South Carolina] play," Carroll said. "But it was also his first chance to see a big campus and big game. He wanted to see Georgia."

Everyone visited in the spring
During the spring of Clowney's junior season, he attended a few practices at South Carolina. He and his mother, Josenna, also attended the North Carolina spring football game.

Carroll and the South Pointe coaching staff tracked all the college coaches who came through the school during the May evaluation process, which runs from mid-April through the end of May. "I would write down each and every one of them. We stopped counting at 130 coaches," Carroll said. "And that was just in the spring. It was like a smorgasbord. I've never seen anything like it."

Now No. 1 officially
On June 2, Clowney was named the nation's top player in the Class of 2011 ESPNU 150 player rankings. He would remain the No. 1 player throughout the year.

Later in June, he unofficially visited Clemson for their camp, but chose not to participate. He watched from the sidelines, meeting with some Clemson coaches and some of the prospects in attendance. From Clemson, Clowney and Carroll drove to Alabama for an unofficial visit.

Senior year
At the beginning of his senior season Clowney listed South Carolina and Alabama as his front-runners, with Clemson, FSU, LSU, Ohio State and a host of others trailing, but still in the mix.

Over the course of the fall, Clowney attended several South Carolina home football games, including the Gamecocks' win over then-No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 12. He also went to Clemson unofficially when the Tigers lost to Miami on Oct. 2. Clowney made his first official visit to South Carolina on Nov. 5 with his mother.

The first Wednesday in December, Alabama coach Nick Saban made his in-home visit with Clowney. The following day, Carroll took Clowney to Columbia to watch South Carolina practice for the upcoming SEC championship game against Auburn.

Clowney
AP Photo/Alex C. Hicks Jr.Jadeveon Clowney was unblockable at the Shrine Bowl, as he was during his career; he had 84 sacks as a three-year starter.
Still making plays on the field
Clowney helped South Pointe to another state championship appearance the first weekend of December, but the Stallions lost to Myrtle Beach. He finished his senior season with 32.5 sacks and seven defensive scores. For his career, he had 84 sacks as a three-year starter.

The next weekend, he won Mr. Football in South Carolina. He then went to Spartanburg, S.C., for the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, where he dominated the contest. After the Shrine Bowl, Clowney headed to Orlando for a week of Under Armour All-America Game practices and then the all-star game itself. He was impressive against the nation's top players and had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Clowney and his mother then went from Orlando to New York City for a photo shoot for ESPN the Magazine.

"Jadeveon didn't create this hype," Carroll said. "The media did. He didn't put himself on this pedestal. He handled it so well and lived up to all the hype and then some."

The home stretch
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier made his in-home visit with Clowney prior to the Shrine Bowl. Clowney made his official visit to Alabama (Jan. 14) and Clemson (Jan. 28) last month. On both of his visits, his mom went with him.

Carroll told ESPN on Jan. 18 that Clowney would likely not make his decision on national signing day. Instead, Clowney would announce and sign with his school choice on his 18th birthday, which happens to be Valentine's Day.

On Tuesday, Jan. 24, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made his in-home visit with Clowney.

Clowney made an appearance on ESPNU's "National Signing Day Special" and said his decision will come down to three schools -- South Carolina, Clemson and Alabama.

So now everyone is pointing to Monday, Clowney's birthday and decision day. His announcement will take place at South Pointe High School in the auditorium.

"Monday is going to close one great chapter," Carroll said. "And I hate to see it end. But it has to, and it's gone on long enough. The good thing is that another chapter will begin on Monday, and I can't wait to see what he does at the next level."

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.