No, Twitter, Jadeveon Clowney’s Tackle Was Not All That Exceptional

Liam Day challenges the notion that South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney’s tackle yesterday in the Outback Bowl was some sort of superhuman feat.

Let me state at the outset that what I am about to write is in no way a criticism of South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, whose tackle of Michigan’s Vincent Smith in yesterday’s Outback Bowl has been the talk of Twitter the past 24 hours. Clowney’s tackle is textbook, his head is up and he runs through Smith, in the process jarring the ball loose, which he then proceeds to recover with one hand.

Who I am criticizing are all the people on Twitter who proceeded to pound their chests in less than 140 characters as if what Clowney had done were some superhuman feat. Here are some samples:

Clowney = total beast.

Jadeveon Clowney just destroyed the whole state of Michigan.

Jadeveon #Clowney arrested on 297 counts of attempted murder. . .

No he isn’t, no he didn’t, and no he wasn’t. (You can read more of the inane chatter at Huffington Post.)

Aside from the chest beating, my beef with the Twitter reaction is this: the hit is a pretty routine one. Clowney was able to penetrate the Michigan backfield because of a missed assignment and gets to Smith at almost the same moment the ball is handed to him. Clowney didn’t have to shed a blocker and Smith didn’t have a chance to elude him. Clowney’s supposed to make that tackle. The bigger story would have been if he’d missed it.

This leads me to my real beef, which is how often, as fans, we get excited about that which is most unremarkable. (This is also true, by the way, of voters.) There is an old Latin expression used in legal circles that goes, Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Translated it means, after which therefore because of which. It is a comment on the common misperception that because two events happen to occur back-to-back the first event must have caused the second, which is hardly ever true. The world is much more complex than that.

However, as I said, this misperception is a common one. It will lead us to cheer the linebacker who makes a great tackle in the hole, but miss the fact that the nose guard took on two blockers freeing the linebacker up to make the tackle. It leads us to cheer the quarterback who completes the game-winning touchdown pass, but overlook the blindside tackle who picked up the blitz (that is, of course, unless you’re Michael Lewis).

Now, I have no idea whether Jadeveon Clowney, who is only a junior, will wind up being selected in the first round of the NFL draft, as a number of tweeters have suggested he should be based solely on this one tackle, which, let’s face it, is little more than a practice tackle, but if he is, let’s hope the team that selects him does so based on more than the tape of this one game. For if he is going to play at the next level, he’s going to need to take on lineman, who aren’t going to miss blocks like that Michigan lineman did yesterday, stretch the field and make tackles in pursuit of running backs who actually have the ball in their hands before he meets them.



AP Photo/Al Messerschmidt

About Liam Day

Liam Day has been a youth worker, teacher, campaign manager, political pundit, communications director, and professional basketball player. His poems have appeared at Slow Trains Apt, and Wilderness House Literary Review. His op-eds and essays have appeared in Annalemma Stymie, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. He lives in Boston, where he works as a public health professional. He is the Sports Editor at The Good Men Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @LiamDay7.


  1. kapooooooow!
    i almost expected that 1950s batman graphic to appear, when the opponent’s helmet flew clear off like it had a moonrocket powering it. very cinematic, almost cartoonish

  2. That’s the kind of play/scene you’d see in a football good-feel movie – and that’s what makes it unique and that’s what drew the locust from twitter. Anyone who plays any form of sport dreams about the play where skill/luck/heart and God herself put one together.

    You seem to be criticizing something else…

  3. wellokaythen says:

    Beautiful tackle. Now, get off the field so your celebration doesn’t cost your team a delay of game penalty or force you to lose a valuable time out. You still gotta have your head in the game.

  4. As a Clemson fan, I am loath to give credit to any South Carolina fan but that was a great play. While the lineman whiffed on this assignment, Clowney is fast and quick enough that any mistake by the tackle can result in him getting through. The tackle itself, as you mentioned, was textbook: facemask to the chest, wrap up, drived to the ground. As someone else mentioned above, he also knocked the tailback’s hat off. Finally, he had the presence of mind to lean over and scoop up the ball with one hand. They went on to score a touchdown after the turnover in a game they won by 5. Big hit, bigger play.
    Regarding being the first pick, he’s been getting after quarterbacks all year (ask Tahj Boyd), if he learns to not always pin his ears back, he could go down as one of the greats at his position. I wish he wore orange on Saturdays but I appreciate what a talent he is.
    I agree with your larger point over football and sports hyperbole. We love superlatives. Ours is a language of exaggeration and allusion. Twitter is a superb medium for that figurative language. When Blake Griffin tomahawks on someone, we’re all stuck wondering, “Jeez, now I wonder how his dick tastes.”

  5. I agree with your article fully and believe that we, as a society, are way to easily amused. I also believe that we are so quick to reward athletes/artists/others for one Hit/Song/Speech, hell sometimes even one note, rather than judge a full body of work. However, Jadeveon Clowney has been making plays like this since his freshman year and will start off his Junior season next year as a Heisman favorite.

  6. You know’ forget twitter and whatever cyber-garbage is out there. Just sit down, look at the game film starting with the play before and finishing with the play after and you’ll see what I mean!

  7. Spoken like a true Basketball player. Seriously! This is the kind of hit that football players DREAM about. Make that more like a wet dream! Yeah, football is the ultimate team game and somebody on the offensive line ‘blew’ the blocking assignment. That being said , on the play after his team was ‘screwed’ on a first down spot, to come in and make that hit, knock the helmet and the ball lose, and then scoop it up! Then on the next play, his team scored a touchdown! Come’on, that was the PLAY OF THE GAME! It turned the momentum and made the difference to South Carolinas win!

    • Bobbt, I had to smile at “Spoken like a true basketball player.” I roomed with four football players in college. That’s precisely what they would have said.

  8. It was a pretty wicked hit but truthfully hits like that happen pretty regularly these days (I’m sure a few other guys around the world of college and pro football got busted in similar fashion this weekend). I suppose you can thank Twitter and other social media for the way these otherwise unremarkable hit make the “front page” now.

    Even 15 years ago hits like that didn’t make much of a splash in the sports world unless the hit was a game changing or a game sealing tackle.

    But with as fast and freely as info moves around the net these days we now live in a world where, “THE MOST EPIC HIT OF ALL TIME!!!!!!!!!!!WTF!!!!!!?????” happens 2-4 times a week.

  9. adolfo soriano says:

    You neglected one key detail: Clowney hit Smith so hard his helmet flew off. That rarely happens on a simple handoff and gives the play even more cache.

Speak Your Mind