COLUMBIA — Bob McNair’s affinity for the University of South Carolina has continued over the decades.
The Houston Texans owner graduated from USC in 1958. He met his wife in Columbia. He stayed in contact with his alma mater, even traveling to Orlando, Fla., to attend South Carolina’s game against Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Now, McNair has an opportunity to draft the best college football player to come out of South Carolina. The Texans will select first in the NFL Draft this May, and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is there for the taking.
Naturally, McNair is interested.
“He is a remarkable player,” McNair said Tuesday in a short video statement on the Texans’ team website. “He’s one of these players that’s really a once-in-every-10-years type of physical specimen that comes along. Mario Williams was that way. I think Clowney is actually a better athlete than Mario. So that tells you what kind of player he can be.”
The Texans have several dire needs, typical for a team drafting first. Most significantly, they have a quarterback void, and there will be quarterbacks to take atop the draft.
But, if Houston selects Clowney, it would not be the first time the franchise chose a dynamic pass rusher over a quarterback. The Texans drafted Mario Williams with the first pick of the 2006 draft, taking the defensive end from North Carolina State over Houston native and former Texas quarterback Vince Young.
Young was fresh off a national championship, the Longhorns’ first in 35 years. His popularity within the Lone Star State was unrivaled. Yet, sharing a division with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the Texans opted for a player that could wreak havoc on the passer.
The Texans are in a similar situation this offseason. With Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in the same division, there’s a premium on a strong pass rush. Could Houston opt to add Clowney to a defensive line that already includes Pro Bowl tackle J.J. Watt?
Earlier this month, Clowney’s agent Bus Cook told The Post and Courier his client’s goal is to be the draft’s No. 1 pick.
“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.”
McNair doesn’t question Clowney’s talent. The star’s work ethic is another matter.
McNair drew a contrast between Clowney and Watt, a blue-collar tackle from Wisconsin. He also laid out what Clowney’s expectations would be in a Texans uniform.
“Like many of these fellas that have great physical attributes, they didn’t have to work as hard in junior high school and high school and college to be a superlative athlete because they had this natural ability,” McNair said. “He’s not a J.J. Watt. J.J. didn’t have his natural ability. He worked. He developed it.
“One of the things I said to J.J., I said, ‘J.J., I don’t know what will happen, but if we get Clowney, we want you to instill in him the same kind of work habits that you have.’ He said, ‘Well, if he’s in the same room as me, then he’ll have them.’ ”