College Football: Clowney, Lee should stop playing college football

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2013

By David Moulton
Naples (Fla.) News
Over the next few days, a few dozen college football players will end their college eligibility by declaring for the NFL Draft. As it stands right now, to be eligible for that draft, you have to be three years removed from high school.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Southern Cal wide receiver Marqise Lee are the two best players in college football. However, neither is eligible for the draft because they are both only two years removed from high school. The same goes for Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
If Clowney and Lee were eligible, they would be the first two players taken this year. They will both be eligible next year.
So why should they play another down of college football?
Make the case why these two guys should risk injury playing college ball when there is nothing to be gained from it.
It’s bad enough Lee, who is 21, has to wait until he is nearly 23 years old to play in the NFL. But somebody, anybody, make the case as if these two young men were your own kids. There appears to be nothing gained by playing another year of college football but there is a lot that is to be risked by suiting up for their respective USC’s again.
In Clowney’s case, he just watched teammate and arguably the best college running back in the country, Marcus Lattimore, have every major ligament in his knee shredded while being tackled in a game against Tennessee in October. Lattimore was less than a half-dozen games away from being eligible for the NFL Draft, and a guaranteed multiyear, multimillion dollar contract.
Now they don’t know if he’ll ever play again, never mind what type of running back he will be.
Lattimore was the best running back in the country after his freshman year. He was ready for the NFL then. But the NFL said he had to wait two more years before he could play for them. Why somebody doesn’t sue trying to change that rule is beyond me.
OK, so why does that mean he has to play college football those two years? If he stayed home, worked out and got a job at the local grocery store, he might have been bored as heck, but he’d also be a millionaire this spring with a very bright future.
If you knew your kid was going to make at least $10 million, but maybe even $15 to $20 million, if all he did was stay healthy and in shape over the next two years, would you let him do anything to risk his health? Like play college football?
That brings us to back to Clowney and Lee. What is the incentive to play another year of college ball? Is a year of college, anywhere at anytime, worth risking millions for?
And make no mistake we are talking millions. A rookie contract that guarantees $20-$25 million for the players taken in the top five of the draft over four years.
Clowney and Lee will go in the top five. This year, they’d be top two.
So somebody please stop them from playing. Yes, it will hurt South Carolina’s and USC’s chances of winning. Yes, without them college football will be a little less entertaining. But where is the football coach — USC’s Lane Kiffin, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, hello? — that says “I can’t let you risk what you are about to risk, even if it could bring me and this school great success.”
How can anyone at USC potentially let something bad happen to Lee? If you don’t know his story, both of his parents are deaf, and his father has been in and out of his life. Lee moved around between his mother and grandparents. After his grandfather died, Lee and his sister moved to foster care, then with the family of one of his best friends. Lee has two brothers involved in gangs; one was murdered and the other is in jail for attempted murder.
Where is the parent or friend in Lee’s life to tell him now is the time to play it safe?
Where is the CFL team to draft him (and Clowney) and at least pay him to play football in 2013?
Where is the so-called “unscrupulous” agent who offers to pay them $250,000 each to stay home and work out for the next year, just so long as they are healthy come the 2014 NFL Draft? Once they sign their rookie deal, they can pay them back.
I’ll betcha Marcus Lattimore and his family wish they’d have had someone give them such advice.
If the Clowneys and Lees of the world were to stop playing once it became clear there was nothing more to be gained from playing, things would change. No way both college and pro football let talent like this sit on the sidelines when it can be used for their benefit.
Either college football would start paying these guys or the NFL would bring the Clowneys and Lees into the fold sooner.
We’ve heard an awful lot about “player safety” in football recently.
Well, the safest thing Jadeveon Clowney and Marqise Lee can do is not play college football ever again.
It also would be the smartest.