ORLANDO, Fla. - Outside South Carolina's team hotel Wednesday night, Bus Cook watched his newest client from afar.
It had been a long day for all involved. The Gamecocks beat Wisconsin 34-24 at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, but there was more going on than a football game. All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney signed with Cook's agency BC Sports afterward, placing a promising NFL future in his hands.
Cook was pleased, understandably. He called his new client "iconic," understanding Clowney will be the most recognizable name at the NFL Draft in May. Cook knows how it can go with young people when they've reached a certain level of success. At the end of a long day, fatigue sets in. Demands become irritants.
As a group of about 20 kids walked up to Clowney outside the team hotel, Cook wondered how the football star would react. What happened next let Cook know how his new, professional relationship would go.
"He just had that big, friendly smile, signing autographs for all those kids and stuff," Cook told The Post and Courier on Thursday. "To me, that was important. He didn't act like he was too good or too big to give those kids his time. That's what impressed me."
So it begins, the process of turning one of college football's biggest stars into a professional. An All-American into the top pick in the NFL Draft. Cook said that's the goal over these next five months until May's draft.
BC Sports represents some of the NFL's leading stars, including Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Cook also represented former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
Cook envisions that kind of future for Clowney.
"To me, he's really an iconic figure," Cook said. "I think that he's just got that presence about him, he's got that aura about him, that he could be a very, very tremendous football player. He's got a lot of work to do. I hope that hopefully one day, coming out of college he'll mesh with all of those guys.
"I hope the future holds for him what for these guys their experience has done for them, which is make them the top football players in the National Football League."
Now, life gets hectic for Clowney. He will focus on preparation for the NFL Combine in February, the next big event along his path of becoming a pro.
Cook does not expect Clowney to have surgery to shave bone spurs in his right foot, something the defensive end planned to do earlier this season.
"I think for the moment he's probably going to be OK," Cook said. "... I think once he gets into the rigors of training and stuff and really gets going, if it starts bothering and irritating him and he thinks, 'Hey, I've got to take this time off,' then at that point in time we'll address that issue."
Cook said Clowney will be focused on what he must do on the field to prepare for the draft, leaving off-field distractions from the past month behind. Clowney received two speeding tickets in December, going more than 25 mph above the speed limit each time.
Cook does not expect the speeding tickets to affect Clowney's draft prospects.
"If it is, then they're focused on the wrong things," Cook said. "If a speeding tickets is all a kid can have, woe to those who have more. So I don't see that being an issue at all. I think he's learned his lesson."
Clowney is already focused on the process ahead. Clowney told reporters Wednesday he needs to get stronger, better able to take on two blockers - something he faced all season.
Cook has no doubts Clowney will be ready. Whatever obstacles await, Clowney's goal is to be the top player selected in the draft.
"Everybody wants to be the best they can be, and be No. 1," Cook said. "He has indicated to me, he and I have talked about it, that he's going to commit himself to do the work necessary to put him in that position and not be concerned with a lot of the other off-the-field stuff."
"I think absolutely he's got the talent. He will make an immediate impact with some NFL team that's lucky enough to take him."