You hear about the jitters, nerves or “butterflies” that athletes sometimes have before games, and some players in both the Clemson and Auburn locker rooms are going to experience that prior to Saturday night’s primetime season opener.
Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, however, won’t be one of them.
Wilkins wasn’t even nervous before his first career college game against Wofford last September, and said that’s just not a part of his mental makeup.
“I usually don’t get nervous for games,” Wilkins said on Tuesday. “I get excited and anxious, but no butterflies or anything like that. Just ready to play, really.”
Wilkins and his teammates are tired of hitting each other after a month of practices and scrimmages, and ready to hit an opponent in a game that counts.
“I really can’t wait,” Wilkins said. “It’s been too long since we played a game against somebody else. I’m tired of whooping up on my teammates every day, and I’m sure they all are too. We’re just ready to take it out on someone else, finally play a game and get going with the season.”
At the same time, there can be disadvantages to being too excited or too pumped up for a game. So, Wilkins knows Clemson will need to stay within itself and not try to do too much when the spotlight comes on.
“Everyone is going to have to do their job and not get too wrapped up in how big the game is,” Wilkins said. “Guys have to do what they’re coached to do. Just do their job, not do anyone else’s job, and we’ll be fine.”
That approach goes hand-in-hand with Clemson’s approach heading into the season. The Tigers are aware of the expectations for them, and they know what they want to accomplish this season after making it to the national title game and falling just short to Alabama.
But instead of looking at the big picture, Clemson is focused on itself, not any other team, and doing what it has to do each day and each game to get to where it wants to be in the end.
“We really just talk about taking it day-by-day and trying to do all the little things right on a daily basis,” Wilkins said. “Then, the rest will take care of itself. We know where we want to be at the end of the season, but we’re really trying not to focus on that as much as focusing on what we do and on the task at hand every day.”
The journey starts Saturday, even if it does start a little late at 9 p.m.
Wilkins doesn’t care what time it starts, though. He’s just ready to get started, and won’t be nervous when the ball is kicked off.
“I’m going to be ready to play,” Wilkins said, “and I’m going to try to make sure the other guys are ready to play no matter what time it is.”