COLUMBIA - Of all the NFL coaches, scouts and former players lining the field at Williams-Brice Stadium for South Carolina's Pro Day, nobody understood Jadeveon Clowney's challenge better than Tedy Bruschi.
Before the ESPN analyst became a three-time Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowl linebacker with the New England Patriots, Bruschi played with his hand in the dirt. He was a pass-rushing specialist at Arizona in the mid-1990s, a defensive end lining up in a three-point stance.
"The transition," Bruschi called it. "It's very difficult to do."
Bruschi watched for one specific trait Wednesday. Could Clowney move well enough to play outside linebacker at the next level? Did he have the versatility befitting a No. 1 pick in the NFL draft?
He walked away with a resounding conclusion.
"Turn in the card now to the commissioner," Bruschi said. "Just turn it in, because he should be Houston's No. 1 overall pick."
"I've seen guys do the things that he did today, and do them as well as he's done, but not at that size."
Clowney, who measured 6-5 and 266 pounds, was one of 10 former South Carolina players working out before personnel from 30 of the NFL's 32 teams Wednesday morning. The group of Gamecocks included former quarterback Connor Shaw, receiver Bruce Ellington and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles.
Naturally, all attention was on Clowney.
The top prospect in next month's NFL draft had two goals. He wanted to quell any doubts about his work ethic and love for the game. More tangibly, he wanted to prove he could "move laterally," important for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
"He'll be drafted as 'outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney,'" ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said.
"I haven't played it in a while, but I'm really looking forward to it," said Clowney, a full-time defensive end at South Carolina. "I always told my teammates, 'If I get a running head start off the edge, it would be easier to pass rush that way.'"
The Houston Texans, owners of the draft's first pick, were well represented at Williams-Brice Stadium. Texans general manager Rick Smith, head coach Bill O'Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel flew to Columbia for Clowney's workout. Crennel did more than watch, crouching in front of Clowney and working him through the drills.
As Clowney showcased his agility, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier chatted with O'Brien.
"I think it was a good day, wonderful day," Spurrier said. "Jadeveon did everything that was asked of him."
Clowney had dinner with Smith, O'Brien and Crennel on Tuesday night. He said they talked about family, life and football. There also were discussions about Clowney's work ethic, passion and commitment to the game.
His answers must have impressed. Asked if he had any concerns about Clowney's work ethic, O'Brien made his stance clear.
"No," he said. "Absolutely not."
For the Texans, it was another stop in a long trail of Pro Day appearances. O'Brien was at former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's Pro Day last week, and former Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles' Pro Day earlier in March. They are quarterbacks. Clowney represents a different approach with the top pick.
O'Brien didn't tip his cap Wednesday. He said things are "wide open." The draft was pushed back two weeks this year, and Houston plans to use the extra time wisely. Still, O'Brien was impressed with what he saw from Clowney.
"He played defensive end in a four-down scheme here, so it was good to see him go through a bunch of different drills," O'Brien said. "He's an athletic guy, obviously. So it was good to watch him do those things.
"He's obviously a very productive player, had a really good college career. Fun guy to watch on film. I wouldn't say there was anything that changed my mind as far as what kind of player he is."
With five weeks until the draft, Clowney will try to continue proving why he's worthy of being drafted No. 1. He has trips scheduled to the Atlanta Falcons (sixth pick) and St. Louis Rams (second). While he said there were no visits scheduled to Houston, that could change.
Clowney said he deserves being picked No. 1. Asked why, he pointed to the skills Bruschi noticed. Yes, he can make "the transition."
"I can pretty much do it all," Clowney said. "Anything on defense, I can help. I can be a playmaker. I am a playmaker.
Every team I've played on, we've never had a losing season. Never."
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