By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Only C.J. Spiller caused more excitement at Clemson when he got his hands on the football than wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Though he played only three years, Watkins set 23 records at Clemson and finished his career with 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. The reception and yardage totals are Clemson records and the touchdown total tied DeAndre Hopkins’ record.
In 2013, Watkins finished with 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. He broke Clemson records for receptions in a season (Aaron Kelly 88 in 2007) and receiving yards (Hopkins 1,405 in 2012). The native of Fort Myers, FL was a first-team All-American this year by the American Football Coaches Association and was a finalist for the 2013 Biletnikoff Award.
Watkins is the first player in Clemson history to be named First-Team All-American three years in a row. He finishes his college career ranked second in ACC history in career receptions and third in reception yardage. He also had 5,129 all-purpose yards, second in Clemson history to C.J. Spiller’s 7,588.
Here is what The Clemson Insider.com thinks are the top 10 games of Watkins’ three-year career with the Tigers.
- Clemson 40, Ohio State 35; January 3, 2014: Watkins finished his Clemson career in grand style as he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Discover Orange Bowl. He had 16 receptions for 227 yards and two scores in Clemson’s 40-35 win over sixth-ranked Ohio State. The 16 receptions and 227 receiving yards established a Clemson single-game record and an Orange Bowl record. The 16 receptions also tied an ACC standard for any game and established a record for a BCS Bowl game. The 227 yards were the second most receiving yards in any BCS Bowl game.
- Clemson 56, Maryland 45; October 15, 2011: Until his Orange Bowl performance, this was the grandest moment of his career. Watkins willed the Tigers to a victory on that cold night in College Park, Md., including the game-winning score on an 89-yard kick return that improved the undefeated Tigers to 7-0 at the time. Watkins hauled in eight catches for 105 yards and caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Tajh Boyd, while also running one time for 33 yards. He also had 207 yards on five kickoff returns—a career high—including the game winning return. His 345 all-purpose yards broke Spiller’s record for a single game at Clemson.
- Clemson 42, Wake Forest 13; October 25, 2012: Watkins became the first player in Clemson history to have 200 receiving yards in a game when he caught eight catches for 202 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers rout of the Demon Deacons. He had three receptions of 50 yards or more in the first half.
- Clemson 38, Auburn 24; September 17, 2011: Watkins introduced himself to the college football world when he had a game-high 10 receptions for a game-high 155 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers snapped Auburn’s 17-game winning streak. He set Clemson records for catches and yards in a game by a freshman with his performance. One of those touchdowns was a 65-yard catch-and-run from Boyd.
- Clemson 35, Florida State 30; September 24, 2011: A week after showing up the defending national champions, Watkins let it loose against 11th-ranked Florida State. He had a game-high 175 all-purpose yards, including seven receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ victory. Watkins caught a 24-yard touchdown pass early in the game, and then he sealed it with a 65-yard bomb from Boyd in the fourth quarter.
- Clemson 38, Georgia 35; August 31, 2013: After having a down year for his standards in 2012, Watkins reintroduced himself to college football when he caught a slant from Boyd in the first quarter, ran over a Georgia safety and raced 77 yards for a touchdown. He finished the game with six catches for a game-high 127 yards as the Tigers became the first team outside the SEC to beat two top 10 SEC teams in consecutive games.
- Clemson 62, NC State 48; November 17, 2012: Watkins started showing signs of his old self when he had 11 receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown in one of the highest scoring games in ACC history. One of Watkins’ grabs was a 27-yard touchdown reception from Boyd. He finished the game with 129 all-purpose yards.
- Clemson 40, Maryland 27; October 26, 2013: There was just something about playing at Maryland for Sammy Watkins. At the same place where he set a Clemson record for all-purpose yards in 2011, he returned to Byrd Stadium and set a new Clemson mark for receptions in a game with 14. Though he did not score a touchdown in the game, he did everything else but that, finishing the afternoon with 209 all-purpose yards, including 163 receiving. More importantly, Clemson got a much needed bounce back win after losing to Florida State the week before.
- Clemson 49, Syracuse 14; October 5, 2013: The Orange had no answer for Watkins or the Clemson offense. Watkins grabbed four catches for 126 yards, setting up one touchdown with a grab near the goal line that he plucked out of the air, and later a 91-yard bomb from Boyd, when it appeared Syracuse had a little bit of momentum and was creeping back in the game. But Watkins turned on another gear as ran under Boyd’s pass around midfield and then cruised to the easy touchdown from there.
- Clemson 59, Virginia 10; November 2, 2013: Watkins continued his record setting season by nearly getting another record. He and Boyd hooked up on a 96-yard bomb in the third quarter to finish off the Cavaliers. It was the second longest scoring play from scrimmage in Clemson history. Watkins opened up the game by catching a 33-yard touchdown pass from Boyd. He finished the game with eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns.