Last night the Clemson Tigers beat Alabama in another epic College Football National Championship showdown. There were heroics on the field, including from Clemson’s powerful defense led by Christian Wilkins.
A Man with Many Stories
If you don’t follow college football, and in particular Clemson Football, you may not know Christian Wilkins. Even if you know who Wilkins is, you may not really know who Wilkins is.
Wilkins is a 6-foot 4-inch, defensive tackle, weighing in at 315 pounds, an All-American on the Clemson Football team.
He is from a broken home with seven siblings; his grandfather was accidentally killed by police in 2011.
He graduated from Clemson in 2 and ½ years with a degree in communications studies and received his masters in December.
He could have gone pro last year with a big contract, but he elected to come back to school for “one more ride” with his teammates.
A couple of years ago when a teammate missed a bowl game due to violation of a team rule (reportedly a drug offense), Wilkins told head coach Dabo Swinney that he was going to room with the player, because “we need him, and he needs me.”
He’s the guy who nicknamed the Clemson defensive line The Power Rangers. And convinced these 300 pounders to put on Power Ranger costumes to go trick or treating at coaches’ homes on Halloween.
He’s the guy who after Clemson won the National Championship in 2017, pulled the shirt off his ample frame and did a split. He plays on special teams so he can come onto the field after touchdowns to celebrate. He loves to play offense and has lobbied unsuccessfully to get a chance at quarterback.
This year after a controversial quarterback change, Wilkins took the new quarterback to breakfast. Coach Swinney only knew when someone sent him a picture.
Last spring, he had some free time and he became a substitute teacher in nearby Oconee County. Mr. Wilkins taught kindergarten and high school. He stayed away from middle school, because, well, middle school.
In December he received the William V. Campbell trophy from the New York Athletic Club. The award recognizes “an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.” It has been called the academic Heisman.
He concluded his acceptance speech by encouraging people to be themselves. He later told ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”
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