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WTF, Jadeveon Clowney?

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The stretch of Interstate 77 from Charlotte, N.C. to Columbia, S.C. is built for speed … flat, straight and far less congested than South Carolina’s other major thoroughfares.

Just ask former S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who was busted traveling more than 100 miles per hour on I-77 in a state-owned Crown Victoria several years ago.

Well guess what: University of South Carolina All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney one-upped Bauer this week … getting pulled over by the S.C. Highway Patrol traveling 110 miles per hour in a 70 miles per hour zone.

For those of you who learned math in a South Carolina government-run school, that’s forty miles per hour above the limit – and 15 miles per hour faster than the “above limit discretionary window” used by Palmetto State police to arrest individuals for reckless driving.

“For us it’s 26 miles per hour over,” one longtime law enforcement officer told FITS, adding at that level “it’s at our discretion” whether to incarcerate drivers and charge them with more serious traffic offenses.

The S.C. Highway patrolman who pulled over Clowney opted not to arrest the 6-foot-6, 274-pound defensive lineman – instead issuing him a $355 citation worth six points off of his South Carolina drivers’ license.

Clowney, 20, was driving a Chrysler 300 at the time he was pulled over on I-77 – which runs between Columbia, S.C. (where he has helped lead Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks to three consecutive ten-win seasons) and Rock Hill, S.C. (where he was the nation’s No. 1 high school recruit in 2010).

After winning SEC freshman of the year honors in 2011, Clowney had a dominating unanimous All-American season in 2012 – leading the nation in sacks and tackles for losses. Then there was his seismic hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl, which won an ESPY award and elevated Clowney to legend status.

Clowney’s numbers have been down in 2013, but he’s wreaked havoc on opponents’ game plans – dictating play calling and forcing mismatches elsewhere on the field.

USC sports information director Steve Fink said he didn’t know whose car Clowney was driving at the time he was pulled over. Fink also wasn’t immediately able to comment on how the incident would affect Clowney’s participation in the 2014 Capital One Bowl – scheduled for January 1 in Orlando, Florida between USC and Wisconsin.

Ok … now that we’ve dispensed with the facts of the case (what we know of them, anyway) it’s time for a little analysis.

Early reports indicate Clowney’s misadventure isn’t going to hurt him in the 2014 draft.

“A lead foot won’t affect his draft status,” USA Today‘s Brent Sobleski wrote. “Clowney is an elite prospect. Very few things can actually remove that label from rare talents. Clowney is set to become a Top 5 NFL draft pick. A speeding ticket five months before a team has to make a final decision on his selection will have very little bearing on when and where he will be drafted.”

That’s probably correct, but this isn’t your garden variety lead foot – 40 miles per hour over the speed limit is straight up reckless driving, and Clowney should have been cuffed and stuffed for endangering his fellow drivers.

Beyond that … why would someone who is in line to make tens of millions of dollars as a pro football player drive even one mile per hour over the posted limit? 

Particularly in the sort of rainy, foggy conditions that prevailed around the Palmetto State last weekend?

Sources close to the USC program have repeatedly told FITS about the caution Clowney shows in regard to his various extracurricular activities, however in this case he exercised exceedingly poor judgment.

Driving ten miles over the limit is perfectly understandable. And on the Interstate it’s common to see cars traveling 20 miles per hour over the posted limit (although that’s begging for a ticket). But anything beyond 25 miles per hour above the limit strikes us as pushing the boundary of recklessness – which is precisely why cops have the discretion to arrest drivers who do so.

Clowney should have been arrested, in our opinion – if for no other reason than it would have given him some time to contemplate how colossally stupid it is for someone with his talent to jeopardize his own life, to say nothing of the lives of others.

Slow down, Jadeveon. Seriously …

Pic: Travis Bell Photography