-- INDIANAPOLIS -- If Jadeveon Clowney had been able to make his own choice, the former South Carolina defensive end said he would have been at the NFL scouting combine a year ago.
League rules prohibited Clowney from entering the NFL draft after his sophomore season, instead forcing him to return to the Gamecocks for another year, where he was widely expected to be one of the top players in college football.
"I probably would have," Clowney said. "Because I came off a great season. If it was a chance, I probably would have.
"But right now, it's over with. I had to stay a third year. I did what I had to do, took care of business with my team, helped them win games, so I was excited about and that we won."
So instead of heading into the NFL, Clowney had to live with extremely high expectations that were somewhat spurred by his performance in the 2013 Outback Bowl, where he laid a visually ferocious hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith that knocked his helmet five yards down the field.
Smith got up from the hit, but the expectations for his aggressor were set by people other than Clowney, and he knew some of them were unrealistic. He also said rumors of him potentially sitting out the 2013 season to wait for the draft were "nonsense" and that his teammates and coaches knew he was going to return for his junior season.
"Yeah, coming into the next season after the hit, a lot of people was talking about sitting out and all of this, all of that," Clowney said. "A lot of people were expecting stuff that was impossible, like 10 sacks a game, 30 tackles for loss and I knew that wasn't going to happen this year, of course.
"But a lot of people expected that. I just go out there and play my game, play hard, physical football."
Clowney said he wasn't concerned about his draft stock throughout the season and dismissed his college coach, Steve Spurrier, saying his work habits were not like some other former South Carolina star players in the past in an NFL Network interview earlier this week.
He told those who asked about it to look at any practice tape from his 2013 season, when he made 40 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in 11 games, and judge his performance from there. In 2012, he had 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.
Clowney was measured at 6-foot-5 and ¼ inches, 266 pounds and has 34 ½-inch arms, according to ESPN's Todd McShay.
Clowney is trying to convince the Houston Texans that he, not a quarterback, should be the player they take with the No. 1 overall pick in May. Part of how he hopes to do that is with his 40-yard dash time. He said Saturday he plans on running a 4.4 or a low 4.5 on Monday when the defensive linemen go through on-field drills.
And then, he'll point to how Seattle won the Super Bowl last season.
"Of course you see the Super Bowl championship game," Clowney said. "Defense won that game, shut them down, shut them out. It takes defense to win a championship. Hands down. Seattle proved that.
"Even though you had a great quarterback, Peyton Manning, hats off him also, but defense won the Super Bowl, wins games."
Once he gets in the NFL, Clowney also believes he is going to continue to have success instead of plateauing as the top player in his high school class and the top defensive player in college football.
"I believe that once I get to the NFL, it's going to be the up on my career," Clowney said. "I just want to be one of the best. I want to be one of the greatest of all-time and the NFL is just the next level, stepping stone in my way."