Jadeveon Clowney is widely expected to be a top-five pick in the NFL draft. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jadeveon Clowney's not asking much. All he wants is to run a 40-yard dash in the 4.4 range here, to be selected No. 1 overall by the Houston Texans and to become an all-time great defender in the NFL.
"I want to be the best," Clowney said Saturday, greeting a massive media contingent that rivaled what convened for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on Friday. "I want to be one of the greatest of all time, and the NFL is the next stepping stone."
The South Carolina product will join his fellow defensive linemen on the Lucas Oil Stadium field Monday for workouts -- Clowney previously said that he expected to put up "amazing" numbers in the schedule drills. He'll be playing some catch-up some for the remainder of Saturday, after a flight delay out of Charlotte pushed back his arrival in Indianapolis.
Sometime along the way, he'll likely meet with the Houston Texans, who hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Earlier this week, Texans general manager Rick Smith confirmed that his team is "open to all possibilities" with that selection; new Houston head coach Bill O'Brien later talked up Clowney. "I’ve watched Jadeveon on film and he’s obviously a very good player," O’Brien said. "And he played very well this year."
Clowney, who said he "probably" would have turned pro after his sophomore season had NFL rules permitted it, previously had not hid his desire to be selected with the first overall pick -- of course, who wouldn't want to be? -- and he reiterated that desire on Saturday.
"I was the top player coming out of high school," Clowney said. "I want to be No. 1 in the draft."
Clowney turned himself into an overnight star last year with a devastating hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith during a South Carolina victory in the Outback Bowl. As a result of that highlight-reel moment, though, "A lot of people expected stuff that was impossible," Clowney said.
Much of the criticism surrounding Clowney's pro potential has centered around his on-field effort. The issues started from the onset in 2013, as Clowney appeared visibly winded during South Carolina's win over North Carolina in late August. Tar Heels offensive tackle James Hurst somewhat vouched for Clowney this week.
"It wasn't just him," Hurst said. "He got all the attention. But that's what we do on offense."
But South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier added to the anti-Clowney narrative in a recent interview with the NFL Network. Spurrier said that Clowney's work ethic was "OK" during his time with the Gamecocks. "It wasn't like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different. His work habits are pretty good, they're not quite like Lattimore, a Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped, he's got something no one else has."
Clowney responded to those remarks Saturday: "I don’t really have nothing to say about it. I believe I did work hard. You pull out any practice tape from last year, you’ll see that. ... I will always be working hard. No matter where I end up I am going to work hard and give a team everything I’ve got."
To nab the No. 1 spot in this year's draft, Clowney will have to convince the Texans (or any team trading up into that spot) not only that he leaves it all on the field, but also that his impact defensively will be worthwhile enough to pass on the talented quarterbacks available.
So what is Clowney's pitch?
“You watched the Super Bowl," he said. "Defense wins championships."