INDIANAPOLIS — South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was the first in a line of highly touted prospects to take the podium Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
He spent part of his time on stage selling himself to the Houston Texans as the No. 1 overall pick in May's draft. And his logic was sound.
"The Super Bowl, defense won that game, shut them down, shut them out," Clowney said, referencing the Seattle Seahawks' dominant 43-8 victory against the Denver Broncos. "It takes defense to win championships, hands down. You had a great quarterback in Peyton Manning, hats off to him also, but defense wins the Super Bowl."
Clowney was similarly convincing in his argument against the idea he played with caution this season to protect himself for the draft.
There was much said and written about the idea Clowney would be the best player available in last year's draft if he was eligible. And while he admitted he likely would have entered the draft if rules allowed it, Clowney scoffed at any theory he considered sitting out his junior season.
He's been criticized for a season that ended with just three sacks but said the lack of production didn't come from a lack of effort.
"Things didn't go as good as possible (this season), but I had a lot of high expectations on myself," Clowney said. "I was looking forward to the season. I think I played hard and physical every game."
Clowney declined to address former coach Steve Spurrier's comments last week about his work ethic and said he loved the game. He was the No. 1-ranked high school prospect entering his college career, and he wants to be thought of as the best player coming out of college football now.
Then he has even higher goals for his NFL career.
"I just want to be the best, one of the greatest of all time," he said. "The NFL is just the next level, stepping stone in my way."
DEAL OR NO DEAL: The Pro Football Talk website reported Friday a trade was considered between the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers that would have sent head coach Jim Harbaugh to the Browns for multiple draft picks.
San Francisco officials have denied the report, while Cleveland has remained mostly mum. The Browns eventually hired Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and the rumor was addressed during his combine media appearance Saturday.
"I got a phone call saying that report was going to come out, and I shot the messenger a little," Pettine said. "I asked how does that affect my tenure as the head coach? I think my next sentence used the word 'flying' followed by something or referenced a part of a rat's body. I think that's noise. It has no bearing on my job moving forward."
MAC ATTACK: Ball State wide receiver Willie Snead faces questions about his size and ability to fight off jams at the NFL level. But he said he's looking forward to the combine drills and his opportunity to prove himself.
"I'm just ready to get on the field and show that I belong," Snead said.
One of three Cardinals invited to the combine — alongside quarterback Keith Wenning and defensive lineman Jonathan Newsome — Snead said he already has interviewed with officials from the Browns and New England Patriots.