Levon Kirkland has a lot of things to be proud of. The former Clemson linebacker was an MVP of a bowl game. He won two ACC Championships, was a two-time All-American, played in a Super Bowl and was a two-time All-Pro as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This past week, he was inducted into the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame in Greenville for all of his accomplishments at Clemson and in the NFL.
“It’s an honor,” Kirkland said. “Anytime you get recognized, it is amazing. The best thing is I know where I have come from and the career I had. I think the people that I connected with … it is amazing that people want to honor you that way.
“My career was worthy of a Hall of Fame on honor, so it’s great.”
As a former Clemson Tiger, Kirkland has been thrilled to watch what Dabo Swinney has done with the Clemson football program and how he has helped make it one of the elite programs in college football and now as national champion, again.
During his days in Tigertown, Kirkland was a part of a Clemson program that won a lot as well. He was redshirted during one ACC Championship run that include a win over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, he played a key role in two other ACC Championships, which included a Citrus Bowl win over Oklahoma. He was the MVP of the 1989 Gator Bowl win over West Virginia and he was a part of one of the most dominating performances by a Clemson defense in any bowl game in a 30-0 victory over Illinois in the 1991 Hall of Fame Bowl.
That 30-0 victory over the Illini was the only shutout by a Clemson defense in a bowl game until this past season when Ben Boulware and company shutout Ohio State, 31-0, in the Fiesta Bowl.
“It was amazing because nobody thought that would happen,” Kirkland said proudly. “Everyone basically said Ohio State is going to win the game and they basically said that because of the name.”
With the shutout of the Buckeyes, the 2016 Clemson defense became the first one at Clemson since Kirkland and the 1990’s defense to record three shutouts in one season. As a former defensive player and coming from a Clemson program that has a long tradition of playing great defense and having great defensive players, Kirkland was smiling from ear-to-ear watching his alma mater wreak havoc on Ohio State.
The Tigers held the Buckeyes to 215 total yards, including just 88 rushing yards. They had three sacks, held them to 3-of-14 on third down and forced three turnovers.
“For our defense to go down there and shut them down, and really, and quiet honestly, embarrass them, it was great to see that, especially because it is where I live now. It was awesome,” Kirkland said.