Jadeveon Clowney became a YouTube sensation thanks to the crushing hit he delivered to Michigan’s Vincent Smith during the Outback Bowl. The first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has graduated from making big plays as an outside linebacker for the University of South Carolina and now taunts the best offenses in the NFL for the Houston Texans (and also schools late night talk show hosts in the fine art of sprinting). Like many NFL rookies, Clowney grew up hooked on EA Sports’ Madden NFL video game franchise. He talks about his love of football – both real and virtual – in this exclusive interview (spoiler alert: he's as good on a computer-generated field as he is on the real one).
What’s it like being in Madden NFL 15?
It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. I always played the game growing up and so now for me to be on the game is just special to me.
What’s a favorite memory from playing Madden back in the day?
I just liked playing on defense, really. And since they had the little thing where you could create a player and build them up, I liked playing that also. With Build-A-Player, I’d always build a free safety or a cornerback, so it’s going to be one of them great things.
Did you play with your family or your buddies?
All the time. I always played with somebody I knew growing up, so now I finally get to play as myself on the game.
Were you the one to beat in the game?
Oh, I was always the one to beat in the game. Competition is everything to me. So every time I picked that game up, I got good. I ain’t going to play nobody until I get good at it. So they used to hate me when I got good and I started beating guys.
As a professional athlete, what’s it like for you to become this virtual character in a game?
I’m just trying to stand apart in the NFL – and everybody can play me through this avatar. I just want to stand out and figure out my game and help my team out. Just be the player I can be out there on the field. I'm not really looking at going at it with other guys; just being the best I can be out on the field.
What advice would you give somebody who’s playing against the Houston Texans in Madden?
The best advice I would give somebody playing against my team in the game is to try to pass the ball. If you’re playing against us, throw it because we’re going to shut the run down and our defense pretty strong. We’re going at guys. We’re just really going to try to win every game hopefully.
What about someone playing as the Texans in Madden?
Go out there and do whatever you love on the field. If you love playing receiver then go for it. Just try to be the best you can be at that position and have fun with it. It’s all about having fun, so have fun and just enjoy it.
What’s it like playing in the NFL?
I’m just going to compete with the best and be the best Jadeveon can be. There’s only one of me out there, so I’m going to be the best Jadeveon can be out there on the field and hopefully help my team win games and just keep going forward and getting better at the game of football.
What do you think has allowed Madden to stand the test of time for over 25 years?
The different competition, the different teams they put together on the games, and the way they set the game up. Every year, there’s some crazy set-up. Like, last year it was that you could throw a screen pass and this year a lot of guys get up the field and score. The blockers blocked too good on the edge. Man, I was mad about that, but I was like, “I’ll use it, when I’m the offense.” Like man, they’re really going to block us that long? But it’s always something in Madden that everybody enjoys. I always bought the Madden (game) every year, so there was not a year that went by that I didn’t have the new Madden.
How might rookies use Madden to prepare for the NFL season?
Oh, man, just look at the plays I guess. I don’t know how they set the playbook up exactly for the teams, but if they are in there you can go in and play and hopefully catch onto some routes or the drops. You can always catch onto the drops and zone coverages and, man, that was something. On defense it would be easy for you to catch on.
How does the realism of the video game translate to the real sport?
Some of the greatest players stand out on the game. Some of the greatest players stand out in real life. If you play with a certain team, if you play with the Seahawks Marshawn Lynch is liable to run all over you. Play with the Texans, J.J. White up front is going to give everything he got and make a lot of plays for you. Calvin Johnson is going to do what he does, catch over two or three defenders in the game. It’s kind of set to real life. So I enjoy playing all the time.
Would you ever want to be on the cover of the game?
Oh, yeah. Why not? Who wouldn’t want to be on the cover of Madden? It would be one of the greatest things ever.
What about the Madden curse?
I heard about that. I don’t know. I don’t believe in that, so if I was chosen to be on Madden, I don’t believe in no curse. I’m going to try to go out there and do what I do every year…have fun and play the game.