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When 6-foot-5, 340-pound defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence first shook hands with his future mentor Christian Wilkins, there was an instant connection.

“It just happened,” Wilkins said. “We hit it off when he was coming here and getting recruited. When he was coming on his visits, I hosted him. It was just an instant connection.”

Having such an outgoing personality, Wilkins was able to help the Tigers lure in one of the highest-rated five-star recruits in Clemson history.

“He said that I am a big part of the reason why he came here,” Wilkins said. “I’m just lucky and blessed to have that personality and those characteristics and just use them.”

Despite the fact that the two have grown very close, Lawrence’s personality is the exact opposite of Wilkins.

“He is a little more quiet. I am personally cooler than he is,” Wilkins said, smiling. “He is a little more reserved and quiet, but he is a great kid.”

However, on game days Lawrence’s reserved type of personality is left in the locker room.

Turning heads since the moment he stepped on the field, the 2016 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year has exceeded expectations. Lawrence’s 71 total tackles this season ranks fourth best on the team. During the regular season, the freshman also recorded 7.5 tackles for loss, including five quarterback sacks, and 19 quarterback hurries.

“Dexter is great kid,” Wilkins said. “He works hard. He does everything you ask him to. He is just really a team player. I definitely think that’s why we are so close and have a good connection.”

Having such a close connection with Wilkins, Lawrence has been able to learn from the best.

“I really felt like I had to take him under my wing because he would be doing a lot of the things that I would be doing,” said Wilkins.

Helping the Tigers land a spot in the 2016 ACC Championship Game, the two defensive playmakers have given tangible meaning to the importance of leadership within the Clemson football program.

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