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Jadeveon Clowney: Work ethic criticism was like 'spit in the face'

Jadeveon Clowney was so dominant in high school that he was one of only a handful of players ever considered a consensus No. 1 recruit. He was so impressive in college that few doubt why he sits atop NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's list of 2014 NFL Draft prospects.

Is Clowney perfect? No, but he's close.

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As he moves through the pre-draft process, however, there are a few folks who have said he's not worthy of hearing his name called first in the draft. The one consistent knock Clowney has heard about himself is about his love of football and how hard he works. Clowney responded to the criticisms of his work ethic in a recent interview with NFL Network's Kim Jones, and he didn't hold back on his true feelings.

"When they say that, I take that as spit in the face, really," Clowney said. "I wouldn't question that about me personally. I love the game and don't think I take plays off. And I wouldn't question how much I love it because I wouldn't be playing this game if I didn't love it.

"I had the opportunity to go to school and play football, and I did," he said. "I had the opportunity to sit out last year like everybody was talking about, but I didn't. I wanted to play football."

Clowney has been on the NFL radar from the time he was a junior in high school but talk of him slipping in the draft first surfaced during his final season with the Gamecocks.

After racking up a school-record 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss in 2012, Clowney saw his stats plummet in 2013. Though he posted several notable performances throughout his final season, there wasn't a week that went by where he wasn't in the national headlines for something.

First, there was talk that he was considering sitting the year out entirely in order to not get hurt. Then his coach, the lively Steve Spurrier, suggested he wasn't as injured as he led others to believe before claiming it was all a miscommunication. Sitting out a few games stirred the pot some more. The big drop in his numbers prompted even more folks to chime in he was taking plays off.

On top of saying that was all nonsense, Clowney directly addressed his stats by saying the hype surrounding him was a bit inflated heading into the season.

"People expected me to go into games my last year to make big hits like (the Outback Bowl against Michigan) and get four or five sacks," he said. "That was something I knew was probably not going to happen because teams started playing me a lot different. It's something you have to deal with."

Kind of like how he dealt with Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson in a big SEC East game. Or how he dealt with regularly being double- and triple-teamed on plays.

Clowney is undoubtedly one of a handful of players who are in play at No. 1 overall for the Texans when the draft rolls around in May. Some still insist that Houston will go for a quarterback over taking a talent like Clowney but that is not a opinion shared by everybody. Several analysts have the talented pass rusher slotted atop their recent NFL.com mock drafts.

Not surprisingly, he thinks it would be a mistake if he's not the No. 1 overall pick.

"I think it should be me," Clowney said. "I can be a game changer. I can help any team out."

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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