High School Football

February 15, 2011

'Media frenzy' unexpected at Clowney announcement

The wait for the announcement had dragged on so long, it's probably appropriate that even Jadeveon Clowney had to wait.

The wait for the announcement had dragged on so long, it's probably appropriate that even Jadeveon Clowney had to wait.

Before the nation's top football prospect could announce his school of choice, Clowney looked around sheepishly from the stage at South Pointe High School's auditorium - in front of no fewer than 100 media members - and shrugged.

"They said I've got two minutes," he said, motioning toward the earpiece ESPN had given him for a live cut-in to SportsCenter.

So Clowney stood nervously and waited, pausing after he already had begun to thank those closest to him.

There wasn't much suspense in the room about his destination, since everyone seemed to know he would be picking South Carolina. His entire family was decked out in shades of black and burgundy, with his father's blazer probably the closest in the room to garnet. But the wait symbolized the process, which had grown beyond anyone's expectations.

Even he admitted, "I wish I'd have done it on the second," referring to Feb. 2, the first day high school football players could officially sign with colleges.

But those concerns had seemingly been swept up in the wave of attention.

He's been on the cover of ESPN the magazine, was featured in The New York Times, and had countless stories written about him here and elsewhere.

A film crew followed him daily for a documentary. Blogs and websites logged his decision-making process, which South Point principal Al Leonard partially decried while introducing him.

"It's important for you to understand," Leonard said. "He did not seek the national attention he's receiving."

He seemed to be having fun with it, but all indications were that this one simply got away from him, far beyond the scope anyone was expecting.

Greg Brannon, who does radio play-by-play of South Pointe games on WRHI, recalled a time from Clowney's sophomore year when the young star's goals were simpler.

"He came up to me and asked me who the player of the game was," Brannon recalled. "When I told him it was Stephon (Gilmore), he just shook his head and said, 'Man, just one time, I want to be player of the game.'"

Gilmore was South Carolina's Mr. Football in 2008; Clowney received the same honor after last season.

Gilmore also had fun with the process.

District Three Superintendent Lynn Moody had him on her cable-access television show "School Talk" last week.

To poke fun at the attention he's received, Clowney feigned an announcement at the end of the show, which was cut off just before he could name a school.

"That's his sense of humor. He said, 'Let's have a little fun with this,'" Moody said Monday.

"It's exciting to know that our schools could build and mold a student to be ready for the next level," Moody continued. "I think this really gives the community something to cheer for.

"But, honestly, I'm not sure anyone knew this was going to become the media blitz it became."

An ESPN spokesman said the delay was not technical but had more to do with the "timing" of the broadcast. "Basically, it's live television," said Mac Nwulu, ESPN's associate director of communications. "We just wanted to make sure he was ready."

Of course, as with most things involving college football recruiting, news about Clowney grew its own momentum, turning what could have been a routine announcement into a bit of a circus.

As he finished his part of the program, athletic director Mike Drummond escorted Clowney from the stage, saying, "We've got to get him back to class."

Citing confidentiality, school officials wouldn't say whether he was headed to biology or math or physical education.

But 20 minutes later, he was back in front of the auditorium, being interviewed by the documentary crew, before heading back inside and signing autographs.

See video from Clowney's announcement below.

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