COLUMBIA - His production was scrutinized. His work ethic was questioned. His desire was doubted.

It was a long, frustrating final college season for Jadeveon Clowney, but another reason may have come to light Thursday afternoon. The former All-American defensive end and No. 1 overall draft pick by the Houston Texans played through a sports hernia at South Carolina last season, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

"I just spoke with Gil Brandt at rookie symposium. Clowney told him today he played with sports hernia last season at South Carolina." McClain tweeted Thursday afternoon.

Clowney told agent Bus Cook he thought he played through a groin injury, a nagging nuisance but not something more severe. Texans doctors diagnosed the injury as a sports hernia during OTAs, and Clowney got surgery earlier this month to repair the injury.

Texans coach Bill O'Brien has frequently said Clowney will return in time to participate for training camp. Clowney has said he doesn't know when he'll be able to return.

Clowney had three sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss last season. They were good numbers for most players, but a steep drop from his 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore. It's impossible to know how much the sports hernia injury hindered his production. Clowney did, after all, blow away scouts during pre-draft workouts.

The sports hernia adds to a list of injuries Clowney played through last season. Clowney missed South Carolina's game against Kentucky last October because of sprained muscles near his rib cage. He also talked about bone spurs in his right foot, something he once said would require surgery but never did.