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Has the hype hurt Jadeveon Clowney?

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

The criticism is coming from all sides for South Carolina's junior defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, when it comes to him sitting out of Saturday's game against the Kentucky Wildcats.

First, you have coach Steve Spurrier speaking out in frustration following the victory over the Wildcats.  

"I don't want to get into all of that," said Spurrier. "I will just say he told me he couldn't play. He said his ribs hurt, he couldn't run and said, 'I can't play.' I said, 'That's fine. You don't have to play,' and we'll move on."

"If he wants to play, we'll welcome him if he wants to play for the team. If he doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to play. It's as simple as that."

On Sunday, Spurrier said the frustration he expressed was a result of how late he was told Clowney would not take the field. Spurrier has added that this is not a big story, but when asked to comment on Clowney's commitment to the team, Spurrier said to ask Clowney.

The national sports media is all over the story. ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum ripped Clowney for not playing Saturday, calling him the "biggest joke in college football."

Now, the fans are weighing in as well.

"I think he's more worried about himself than the team," said Megan Gold.

Clowney's every move is under a microscope. He's a star player with star power, and some argue it comes with the territory. But has the hype hurt?

"I think there's a lot of undue pressure on the young man, and certainly we expect him to have every hit like he had during the bowl game last year and that's not the reality," said Montrio Belton.

There's no way to get inside a player's head to know his or her true motivation. But some experts say, at the end of the day, an athlete is bred to compete.

"With all levels of competition, it's about focusing on what do I need to do with this game or what are the strategies or what have the coaches worked on with me," said sports psychologist Dr. Kendra Olgetree Cusaac.

Cusaac works with players, coaches and teams of all levels.

"I try to help them focus on what they know how to do," said Cusaac. "That they've practiced well, that they've conditioned, that they've worked hard and, to really -- game after game -- focus on what their job is and focus only on that."

Cusaac says hype can be a pressure-cooker. It can positively push a player forward or have the opposite effect. She says it all depends on how a player chooses to deal with it.

"The pressure can be so immense that they can buy into it," said Cusaac. "If they're believing their hype or if they want to do so well they add so much internal pressure on themselves."

But Ogletree says athletes realize they have to play and take risks to get to the next game.

"They can't be worried about whether or not they're going to get injured or this is going to be it for me -- they have to go out and play like they know how to," said Cusaac.

And going pro is no different.

"I think it's a long term goal for a lot of folks just like," said Cusaac. "If I want to get a scholarship or if I want to get a job one day. But they know they still have to do the day-to-day things to get there."

For that, Clowney is getting a pass from plenty of his fans.

"This young man is out there doing his best," said Belton. "I think it's a lot and obviously fans want to make something out of nothing. I'm not putting a lot of stock into it, and I enjoy watching him play."

No athlete knows what the future holds for them, but they do know the risk every time they compete.

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