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The run stuffer of nightmares: USC star Jadeveon Clowney focus of SportsCenter Featured

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One Lineman Honors Another


Kory Kozak played for Rutgers.
Kory Kozak, Rutgers
DL 1990-92
ESPN producer Kory Kozak brought a little something extra to producing this feature: experience as a defensive lineman for Rutgers.

“It’s always been good having that knowledge doing features on defensive lineman because I’ve been through it,” Kozak said. “There’s definitely a technical side of the game that I understand a little bit more than the average person might.

“But when it comes to a guy like Clowney, I certainly can’t compare myself to him.”

Kozak savors a 14-7 win at Michigan State in 1991.

“We actually beat them two times in three years at Michigan State . . .but the second time for me was special because that was definitely the best game I played in my life,” he said.

ESPN feature producer Kory Kozak
Kory Kozak
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South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was already a star in college football when he delivered what has become known as the “Clowney Hit” live on ESPN in the Outback Bowl this past January.

Clowney’s hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith became an Internet sensation and propelled Clowney’s fame to stratospheric heights.

In “The Freak,” a SportsCenter Featured piece airing this week on ESPN, the Clowney mystique is given a cinematic treatment, complete with quarterbacks having nightmares about him.

Kory Kozak, producer of the piece, and Valerie Gordon, coordinating producer in the ESPN Features Unit, discussed the “nightmare” concept after looking for a creative way to tell a different side of the Clowney story. Kozak had attended SEC Media Days and heard opposing players and coaches talk about Clowney.

“What we realized, and this wasn’t a big shock, is he’s the most feared player in the country,” said Kozak.

In other words, Clowney’s a nightmare. So how do you depict that?

“Obviously you’re not going to get the real quarterbacks to play a nightmare scene for you, so we hired some actors,” Kozak said. “We created a set of a bedroom scene and a nightmare scene for these guys – we put some actors into uniforms of some opposing teams and put them in the bed and had them basically have nightmares.”

The actors are wearing the colors of Clemson, Florida and Georgia, three of South Carolina’s biggest rivals.

“The thought is that this guy is always in their heads and they can’t relax whenever they play Clowney and South Carolina,” Kozak said.

The piece also contains soundbites from quarterbacks who have lined up against Clowney, including LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Missouri’s James Franklin, as well as Clowney himself.

“You get the fear factor of Clowney with the comments, and I think you also learn a little bit about him,” Kozak said. “He’s a pretty humble kid.”

Menacing music, Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster, adds to the drama.

“You can never tell when he’s going to strike,” Kozak said. “To these guys, he probably is some kind of monster.”

Clowney and the No. 6 Gamecocks will be in action against visiting North Carolina on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 6 p.m. ET live on ESPN.

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