Jadeveon Clowney (Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports)
Orlando, FL (WLTX) - Everyone knew it. His coach even made jokes about it. But now, it's official: Jadeveon Clowney is leaving South Carolina early to turn pro.
Clowney, a junior, confirmed the news moments after the Capital One Bowl when he was asked directly by a reporter if he'd declare for the NFL draft. He said yes. Related Coverage: USC Tops Wisconsin in Capital One Bowl
The news isn't surprising, since Head Coach Steve Spurrier has been saying since before the season began that this would be Clowney's last year. Clowney himself had made references to this being his last year as well. And in news conferences leading up to the game, Spurrier referenced that Clowney could "charge for autographs" after the bowl game, and might drive away from the stadium in a limo.
Clowney said he's going to go home for a while, and will then decided where to train for the draft.
He concludes one of the most heralded careers at USC that began with a Valentine's Day commitment to the Gamecocks in 2011 when he was the top recruit in the nation. Clowney made the All-SEC team as a freshmen, then became a unanimous All-American in his sophomore year.
Of course, he'll likely be best remembers for a play that's now known in college football lore as "The Hit." Previous: Frame-by-Frame of Clowney's Big Hit In last year's Outback Bowl, Clowney hit Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the backfield, knocking off Smith's helmet and forcing him to fumble. (Clowney also recovered the ball) The moment was named the best play of the year at ESPN's ESPY awards.
Most draft experts agree he'll be picked in the top five of April's draft, and could be selected number one overall.
The bigger question may be whether some of his fellow juniors will join him. Many believe defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles will also declare for the draft, and last week, wide receiver Bruce Elllington said he was considering leaving USC as well.