Several times this year Brent Venables has called Carlos Watkins the engine in Clemson’s defense. The senior defensive tackle, who could have turned professional like five others from the Tigers’ 2015 defense did last year, returned to Clemson for his senior year with one goal in mind – to win the national championship for Clemson.
“Sometimes when a guy returns for his senior year, you wish they just would have went ahead and gone pro,” Venables said. “Their mind isn’t always in it. There are distractions out there. They get focused on other things.
“That was not the case with Carlos. From day one, he was laser focused. Never once did his attitude change. He played as big of role in us getting here as anyone else on our roster. I mean, here he is chasing down running backs and making tackles twenty yards down the field. The other guys see that. They respond to that. They see how invested he is so they are invested.”
Watkins led the Tigers in tackles for loss (13.5) and in sacks (10.5) this season, while breaking William Perry’s 1984 record for sacks in a season by a defensive tackle. He also had 50 overall tackles.
In the Tigers’ national championship win over Alabama, the senior recorded six tackles (second on the team) and one tackle behind the line of scrimmage as Clemson limited the Crimson Tide to 376 total yards.
“This is one of the best feelings you can feel as a college player,” Watkins said after the Tigers’ 35-31 win over Alabama. “Too many people do not get this opportunity and for us to come back and win the national championship like we did, it is just unbelievable.”
Watkins was honored to hear what Venables said about him and his passion for the game, but the defensive tackle said all he was doing was following the lead of his coach.
“He is the best defensive coordinator in the game,” Watkins said. “He is so passionate and it rubs off on you. You have no choice. You just want to be a perfectionist and give him everything you got. It is an honor to hear those words come from a man like that. I’m just so grateful. He is the reason why we are in this situation.”
Watkins said Venables challenged all the senior starters—Ben Boulware, Jadar Johnson, Cordrea Tankersley and Watkins—at the start of the season to be their best at everything they do and if they did that they would help bring home a national championship to Clemson.
“I accepted the challenge. Ben accepted the challenge as did (Tankersley) and Jadar. We bought in. We believed,” Watkins said.
Watkins said the most rewarding thing following Monday’s victory in Tampa, Florida, was celebrating it with all the Clemson fans, who took over Central Florida last weekend and Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.
“I’m really thrilled. They really deserve it,” Watkins said. “It really felt like we had a home game today. They were really into the game. They never got out of it. Regardless of what the score was, they stayed with us and they still believed in us. It just can’t get any better than that.”
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