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Best players in Clemson history: Defensive ends

It had been just a few weeks since Vic Beasley announced his intentions to return to Clemson for his senior year. He was back in school and life was moving along quite nicely when suddenly everything stopped.

While shooting basketball with a couple of his friends on Feb. 1, 2014, Beasley received a phone call he never could have imagined. His older brother, Tyrone Barrett, had suddenly passed away when he lost his life from injuries suffered in a car accident. He was 40-years old.

“It was very shocking. It came out of nowhere,” Beasley said. “My brother had called me and that’s when I realized (Tyrone) had passed away in a car wreck. It was kind of sad moment. It was a sad couple of weeks.”

There was a period of time when then Clemson defensive end coach, Marion Hobby, was really concerned about Beasley’s mental state. He had just gone through all the details and conversations that led to him staying at Clemson for another year. In the process he missed three weeks of classes and now he learns his oldest brother had passes away.

“I was wondering, ‘Vic, How are you going to pass these classes. Who is going to pull the old withdrawal thing,” Hobby recalled. “Vic said, ‘No. I haven’t missed but three weeks.’ I said, ‘Three weeks, Vic! Three weeks?! You are taking stats, 400-level classes. Three weeks?!’ I said, ‘You know you can’t fail stats, right?’ He said, ‘Fail it?!’ I said, ‘What are you going to make?’ He said, ‘I’m probably going to make a ‘B.’ I said, ‘What!? Three weeks, make a ‘B’?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah! Don’t worry about it. I’m going to make the Dean’s List this time.’

“He made a 3.5 GPA after all of that. So you are talking about a guy that has to earn your respect, he earned my respect.”

Beasley earned everyone’s respect. He went on to not only have another All-American season on the gridiron at Clemson, which earned him ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors, but he also graduated, fulfilling his ultimate goal.

And he did it all while thinking and remembering his brother, Tyrone.

“We were real close. It was kind of a devastating time in my life,” Beasley said. “But, I think it brought our family closer together. It kind of took us to another level as a family.”

Thanks to the help of his family, while also leaning on his faith, Beasley plowed ahead, got caught up on his school work and started to take his play on the football field to another level.

“(Tyrone died) maybe fifteen days after I decided to comeback,” Beasley said. “It was kind of devastating because I kind of had big plans for my brother and things, but God worked in different ways.”

It’s strange these days for Beasley to think his brother isn’t here to share in all of his successes, but he continues to move forward, now as an Atlanta Falcon and as the best defensive end and pass rusher in Clemson history.

Beasley finished the 2014 season with 21.5 tackles for loss, including 12 sacks. Along the way, he graduated, shattered the Tigers’ all-time sack record, while being one of the unquestionable leaders on a defense that led the nation in total yards and in 10 more different categories. He followed that up with his second straight consensus All-American selection.

Beasley finished his career with 101 tackles, 52.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a record 33 sacks. He also had 29 quarterback pressures and seven caused fumbles, two of which he recovered and returned for touchdowns.

He is first in school history in sacks, fourth in tackles for loss and tied for seventh in caused fumbles. He had at least one sack in eight consecutive games from 2013 to 2014 and was involved in at least one tackle behind the line of scrimmage in each of his last 15 games at Clemson.

Beasley was a two-time First-Team All-American and a two-time First-Team All-ACC selection, to go along with being the 2014 ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Honorable mentions:

Gaines Adams (2003-’06): Adams grew to be one of the most dominant defensive ends in Clemson history. A converted basketball player, Adams got better each year he played the game as he increased his total in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks in each season he was at Clemson. In 2006, he had 62 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. A unanimous All-American selection in 2006, Adams finished his career with 168 tackles, 44.5 for loss and 28 sacks, which tied Michael Dean Perry for the best all-time.

DaQuan Bowers (2008-’10): In 2010, DaQuan Bowers came into his own his junior year as he smashed just about every single-season defensive end record at Clemson, while becoming the most feared defensive player in college football. The Bamberg, S.C. native recorded 74 tackles, 26 for a loss and led the nation with 15.5 sacks. Bowers finished the season as a Unanimous All-American selection—the fourth in Clemson history—while becoming just the second Clemson player to win a national award. The ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year won both the Bronko Nagurski Award as College Football’s Best Defensive Player and the Ted Hendricks Award as College Football’s Best Defensive End. Bowers finished his career with 179 tackles, 45 for loss and 19.5 sacks.

Shaq Lawson (2013-’15): Lawson made an enormous impact in his three seasons at Clemson. He blossomed into one of the top players at his position as a junior. He finished his Clemson career with 167 tackles, 46.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 20 sacks. He also had 29 quarterback pressures and caused two fumbles while playing in 41 games in his career. He started 16 games and finished eighth in Clemson history in tackles for loss and 10th in sacks. Lawson led the nation tackles for loss in 2015 with 25.5, while ranking second in sacks with 12.5. At the end of the year he was named a consensus All-American and was a finalist for the Hendricks Award, Lombardi Award and the Nagurski Trophy. He had at least one tackle for loss in 14 of the Tigers’ 15 games on the way to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Andre Branch (2008-’11): Like Adams and Bowers, Branch was a late bloomer in his Clemson career. In his last year with the Tigers he earned All-American and All-ACC status in 2011 after totaling 85 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He also had 17 quarterback pressures. He finished his career with 197 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks.

 

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