(Photo: Keith Allison)

Jadeveon Clowney is polarizing.

Everyone agrees he’s a physical specimen, but some experts say they wouldn’t touch him because of his motor (or lack thereof) while others would snag him in a heartbeat. The former thinks Clowney took the entire 2013 season off and half-hearted effort – borderline laziness – is part of his character. The latter thinks he has the God-given ability to end up the NFL’s all-time sack leader.

The truth is somewhere in the middle, but no one knows which end of the spectrum is closest.

Ever since he decapitated poor Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl, the legend of Clowney has grown to Paul Bunyan like levels. You could swap “Jadeveon Clowney” for “Chuck Norris” and you wouldn’t be far off in terms of tongue in cheek mythology building.

But then he had to play his Junior year.

Starting with the lethargic performance in South Carolina’s season opener vs North Carolina (although in 90 degree heat and 100% humidity, Chuck Norris would even look like he’s loafing), it was open season on #7. The only thing we as a society like more than building someone up, is tearing that same person down. And tear we did.

They being scouts, rival coaches, NFL players, hell even his own Ball Coach himself gave him some of the patented Spurrier digs. But by only posting 3 sacks this season, noticeably coasting at times, and even making himself a (relatively) healthy scratch vs Kentucky left him open for criticism in some people’s opinion.

But I don’t blame Jadeveon for mailing in his Junior year. Yes, it might have been unfair to his teammates, but Clowney had to look out for himself in his unique situation.

The NFL mandates that a player be three years removed from his high school graduating class to be elidgible for the NFL Draft. Even if that person would have been the slam dunk #1 overall pick after two. Eric Fisher or Luke Joeckel? Please, it would’ve been no contest and the Kansas City Chiefs would’ve been hoisting the Lombardi in New Jersey 4 weeks ago. Guaranteed.

Clowney did not come from privilege, so it’s easy to understand why he make have been protecting the generation changing golden goose that was his health during his junior campaign. Just the year before he’d seen his teammate Marcus Lattimore potentially jeopardize his football career by shredding his knee against Tennessee in his junior year. His mandatory junior year.

Jadeveon emerged from college unscathed and then ran a jaw dropping 4.53 40 at the Combine. A time faster than 36 running backs and wide receivers this year. All this at 6-foot-5 ¼ and 266 pounds. Oh, and don’t forget the 38” vertical jump. That’s also impressive for a guy built like a rhino.

But despite the combine show, the 13 sacks and 6th place Heisman finish as a sophomore, and the constant double-triple-quadruple teams, a lot of people have already written Jadeveon Clowney off as a selfish, unmotivated physical freak.

Sound familiar Vikings fans?

Those were the same knocks against Randy Moss. Coming into the draft and throughout his up and down, first ballot Hall of Fame career.

After the 1998 rookie honeymoon, Vikings fans started to become jaded with the effort (or lack thereof) Moss would show throughout the game. He would be electric one play and then barely push off the ball on the next 10.

But like Randy Moss, Clowney is a once in a generation physical talent and could become the world’s greatest decoy – just like Moss was a decade ago.

Clowney may not give it 110% like coaches or fans may want on EVERY single play. But even if he goes all out 5 plays a game, each one of those plays has the opportunity to be a game changer.

How much of a momentum swing is a strip sack?

How valuable is a muddy pocket on 3rd and long?

How much sleep will a Left Tackle get the night before he faces which ever team drafts Clowney?

Toss him in a locker room full of veterans that will press him to be great and/or on a defense where he’s not the focal point on every single down, and you will see ELITE production out of this young man as he waltzes into Canton.

Because he won’t have to play timid or play to protect himself anymore. He’ll have some money locked as a Top-5 pick. He and his family’s financial future will be secure.

But luckily for the team drafting him, the CBA won’t give him JaMarcus Russell type figures. His big money will come on his second contract. That means the team will have a lean, mean, hungry, Jadeveon Clowney who no longer has to play it safe. Plus if the Texans do end up taking Clowney at #1, imagine that defense with a combination of him and JJ Watt on the field together.

Do you hear vomiting? That’s the AFC South imagining that scenario.

Just like the NFC Central when Randy Moss was paired with Cris Carter.