After Clemson suffered a heartbreaking defeat the first time Alabama and Clemson went head-to-head for the national championship, there were a couple of juniors who could have easily forgone their senior season to pursue a successful NFL career.
Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley was one such player who considered leaving early, but knew there was more he could accomplish as a Tiger.
In 2015, Tankersley led Clemson in interceptions with five picks, while breaking up a team-high 11 passes as well. He also recorded 60 tackles. His first career interception came in Clemson’s close road victory at Louisville, but he continued to make big plays in critical games like his interception in the 2015 ACC Championship victory over North Carolina that put Clemson in position to compete in the College Football Playoffs for the first time.
But Tankersley wanted more.
“It’s the best decision I made,” Tankersley said when he returned for fall camp in August. “It was a hard decision. I made my mind up on leaving, but I just felt incomplete. I felt like I wanted to finish. So just to come back and hopefully cap it off by winning the National Championship while also getting my degree in the spring, I can’t ask for a better comeback.”
Tankersley ended up earning his college degree, while the Tigers went on to down Alabama in a National Championship rematch. In his senior season, the All-American corner tallied 65 tackles and six tackles for loss. He again led the team with 11 pass breakups and was second on the team with four interceptions for 22 yards, two of which were critical against Virginia Tech in the 2016 ACC Championship game.
“I got to make a play,” Tankersley said when reflecting upon his impressive performance in the ACC title game. “I’m always thinking the ball is coming my way. So to see the ball coming my way I was just like, ‘Yes! Make the play. Go finish. Catch the ball. And win the game for the team.’”
For Tankersley, it was about being a good teammate and leader to help the Tigers reach a level of success that they have not achieved for 35 years. He had the opportunity to accomplish his personal goals while being a vital member of a defensive unit that ranked No. 4 in pass efficiency defense. That unit held its opponents to a pass completion percentage of just 52.2 percent in the championship season.
Now the First-Team All-ACC player will have his chance to enter the 2017 NFL Draft after finishing his time as a Tiger with no regrets.
—Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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