Clowney’s HS coaches saw ‘the Hit’ before

Clowney’s HS coaches saw ‘the Hit’ before
May 10, 2014, 10:00 am
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Most of America was dumbfounded, amazed and intrigued when Jadeveon Clowney delivered “the Hit” on Michigan fullback Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl. And rightfully so.

It was a punishing strike that forced Smith’s helmet to pop off and the ball to come free. It also elevated the hype around the Texans’ eventual 2014 No. 1 overall pick to mammoth levels.

But Bobby Carroll and Straight Herron had seen the hit, and many other amazing things, before.

“When I saw ‘the Hit,’ I said I’ve seen that play before,” Herron said. “It was a little bit different because the helmet didn’t come flying off and he didn’t fumble the ball. But that was the same play.”

Herron, who was Clowney’s defensive coordinator at South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and is now the head coach, remembered the similar play against one of the Panthers’ rivals, Northwestern. When the quarterback of the shotgun team went under center, which indicated a run, Clowney broke through and demolished the fullback in the backfield on an important fourth down.  

“I don’t like to say the best guy I’ve coached but he’s a special person,” said Clowney’s former head coach, Carroll, who was in New York City for the draft with Clowney on Thursday night as the two have remained close. “I don’t want it to seem like I’m putting other guys down. He’s just a great, great football player.”

There are plenty more stories, plenty more highlight plays beyond the one that mirrored the hit against Michigan. In fact, it was Herron’s job to whittle them down for a highlight film to be sent off to colleges. For most players, Herron would make a 25-play highlight film. Clowney’s film ended up having four separate chapters with 25 plays apiece.

There was the time he busted into the backfield, intercepted a bubble pass and took it for a touchdown.

And his first-ever varsity play, which came as a freshman in a playoff game -- he was brought up from the freshman team after that team had already finished the regular season -- he covered a kickoff, beat everyone downfield and made a tackle.

Or when he once sacked a quarterback and in the same motion grabbed the pitch out of mid-air.

Then, there was the time when rival Rock Hill High tried to run a trick play at the end of a close game. They threw what was supposed to look like a bounce pass. Clowney was 25 yards behind the wide receiver but chased him down and tackled him at the 5-yard line.

And, believe it or not, Clowney started his high school career at running back. That lasted just one season though; he was moved to defense for the start of his sophomore season in high school but was still used sparingly in the backfield. He ran 32 times for 277 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior.

Somewhere, stashed away, Herron has all those old tapes of Clowney doing amazing things as a high school football player.

“One day, when I get a little older,” he said, “I'm gonna pull those plays out and just watch them forever.”

But perhaps that day won’t come for quite a while, because he and Carroll, who now coaches at York Comprehensive High School, will be able to turn on their TVs on Sundays to watch Clowney in the NFL as a Houston Texan.

As the Texans introduced Clowney to Houston media on Friday afternoon, the No. 1 overall pick said he first told his mom he wanted to play in the NFL when he was a child. But he said he realized he actually had a chance to make it to the NFL when he was in 11th grade.

"Some guys came in and said told me I was the No. 1 guy in the country coming out my senior year," he said. "I was like, ‘OK, well I’ve got my chance now.' South Carolina has been the best three years of my life and being a part of the team in South Carolina, it’s just been up and up for me and my family, like I said, and I hope it will continue to be that way.”

Clowney has always been No. 1. He was rated as the best player coming out of high school and three years later, he was the first pick in the NFL Draft.

“It was really like a breath of fresh air to see it come to a fairy-tail, storybook ending,” Carroll said. “To go to college and be the No. 1 player and then to be No. 1 in the draft, it’s great.

“They can never take that away from him. ‘There was a time that I was a No. 1 guy.’ He’s just a great dude. Money doesn’t cause people to cry. He saw 21 years of investment come through.”

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