Following Clemson’s loss to Alabama this past Monday, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said he had not given much thought on what his future plans are. The junior must decide by Jan. 15, if he will enter his name into the 2018 NFL Draft pool or return to Clemson for his senior.
It’s widely believed Wilkins will declare for the draft considering he graduated from Clemson last month, becoming the first scholarship athlete to graduate from Clemson in just two and a half years. When the Tigers beat The Citadel on Nov. 18 in the season finale in Death Valley, Wilkins, along with fellow junior Taylor Hearn, ran down the hill with the senior class.
“I’m just going to have to sit back, weigh my options and reflect and just think about it,” Wilkins said after the Sugar Bowl. “I have a decision to make. I have to get around the right people who I trust and talk it over with them and just see what happens from there.”
In their first mock drafts, which came out last month, ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay have Wilkins both listed in their top 20, if he does indeed decide to go pro. Wilkins is a two-time All-American at Clemson, honors he earned while playing both defensive tackle and defensive end.
As for right now, Wilkins is still trying to move past this season and reflect on what the 2017 Tigers accomplished, despite the way it ended Monday night in New Orleans.
“My teammates, not the coaches, not the school, just the guys I’m around me every day make the experience so great,” Wilkins said. “We got first class people. Everybody on this team is 5-stars in my eyes. Everyone is just a champion.
“It’s tough obviously, because I know the work we put in. How much we wanted it. How hard we worked so this is tough but I was proud of our guys for what we were able to accomplish this year.”
The Tigers finished the year 12-2, beat rival South Carolina for a fourth straight year, won their third straight ACC Championship and advanced to the College Football Playoff for a third straight year.
When he talked to the team in the locker room, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told his players to hold their head up and be proud of what they accomplished.
“He is proud of us and he is proud of what we have been able to accomplish as a team because people counted us out all year and I feel the same way,” Wilkins said. “We were able to come this far and do a lot of great things.
“It was still a great season for us regardless if we are not playing for a national championship and we did not win this game. This is still a great season and there is still a lot to be proud of. You see a lot of growth and development in guys who did not have big roles in previous years and there is still a lot to be proud of.”