Midway through the second quarter of South Carolina's victory over Clemson in the 2013 regular-season finale, Jadeveon Clowney overpowered Clemson tackle Brandon Thomas and sacked Tigers' quarterback Tajh Boyd.
It was a fitting end to a dominant three-year run against the in-state rival for Clowney, who had 6.5 sacks in three career games against Clemson (including a school-record 4.5 in 2012) — all wins.
Following the selections of quarterback Deshaun Watson and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins in April's draft and signing of free agent Germone Hopper last weekend, the Houston Texans now have six former Clemson players on the roster, the most of any NFL team. Meanwhile, Clowney is one of Houston's three South Carolina players.
And those Gamecocks — Bruce Ellington, Johnathan Joseph and Clowney — have watched their bragging rights disappear. That 2013 victory was the fifth-straight for South Carolina, their longest winning streak in a series that began in 1896 and has been played annually since 1909. Clemson now owns a three-game winning streak with a 72-point combined margin of victory, along with a national championship that continues to elude the Gamecocks.
"I was just asking coach what’s with all the Clemson guys out here. We got too many,” a laughing Clowney told HERO Sports. “But no man, when they come here, everyone is family and we all work together to help each other get better. We just want guys to come in, work hard and prepare like a pro. [Watkins] has been doing that so far and we’re looking for a big season from him."
Watkins, a third-round pick, joins Clowney on a defensive line that also features three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and hybrid end/outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, a 2016 Second-Team All-Pro selection who's registered 19.5 sacks the last two years.
"I think we have one of the best D-lines — if not front-sevens — in the entire NFL right now," Clowney said. "We got a great group of guys that come to work every day and know to how to prepare like NFL players. It builds up everybody around them. Everybody sees how the veterans work and the other guys want to work just as hard. We can all get to the quarterback. One of us is always going to be disrupting the game."
Clowney — who spent part of his offseason trying to get Texans' fans fired up for the 2017 season with Tostitos and their Lucky Bags promotion — also gushed over the other, more high-profile Clemson rookie, Deshaun Watson. The 11th-overall pick has been pushing presumed starter Tom Savage in camp and could become the first former Clemson quarterback to start an NFL game as a rookie since Steve Fuller in 1979.
"He’s an athlete. Nobody can really prepare for a running quarterback in this league. He can run and make throws on the run. That’s what I like about him. He can do everything and has the all-around talent to help this team to get better. I’m looking forward to watching him play this year."
Four years ago, Jadeveon Clowney wanted to destroy a Clemson quarterback he believed was "scared" of him. Now he loves having a Clemson quarterback on his team.