The Atlantic Coast Conference media proved on Monday why Christian Wilkins is considered a Heisman Trophy candidate by some.
The Clemson defensive tackle, who can seemingly do just about anything from catching touchdown passes and sacking quarterbacks to doing a split in postgame celebrations, was picked third by the ACC media in their ACC Player of the Year ballot.
Wilkins, who moved back to defensive tackle in the spring, received 11 votes for ACC Preseason Player of the Year. It was also announced on Monday he is on the Paul Hornung Award Watch List as the nation’s most versatile player. He is also on the Maxwell Watch List as the nation’s best player.
“My mission is the same – to be the best player that I can be,” said Wilkins. “I need to help the team as much as I can and do whatever is necessary.”
At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Wilkins is one of the more versatile athletes to ever play at Clemson. Not only can he play defensive tackle, where he recorded 84 tackles in his freshman year, but he can also play defensive end. While filling in for the injured Austin Bryant, Wilkins became a First-Team All-American at defensive end in 2016 as he finished second on the roster with 20 quarterback pressures and 10 passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. He also was second on the team in tackles for loss with 13 and he had 3.5 sacks as well.
He finished the year with 56 total tackles.
Wilkins is also known for his big personality. Not only does he kick field goals on Twitter and Instagram and catch footballs with one hand while riding a bicycle, but he also, not matter where he is at on the sideline, sprints down to the end zone to celebrate one of his teammates’ touchdowns.
“A lot of it is just pure emotion,” he said. “I just get so excited watching my teammates succeed and do their thing on the field, and I just genuinely love being a good teammate. I know that gets other guys excited just to see me rush down, so I’m going to continue to do it, and I love to do it.
“Like I said, I get excited for my teammates when they make good plays, and I want more good plays to keep happening. I don’t care how many touchdowns we score, I don’t care how many big plays we make. I’m going to do it every time. I get — I burn more energy doing that than just on the play-to-play basis.”
Wilkins just does not celebrate his teammates’ plays, but he gets to celebrate his as well. Besides starting on defense, he also was a lead blocker in Clemson’s goal line packages, where he teamed up with fellow defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. He also was an up-man on the punt team and was in on both field goal teams as a block specialist and as a blocker.
Last year, in Clemson’s win over Troy, Wilkins became the first defensive lineman in Clemson history to score a touchdown out of an offensive formation when he caught a caught a 1-yard pass from Deshaun Watson.
Wilkins also executed a fake punt in the Tigers’ win over NC State as he took a direct snap and ran for a first down. He also blocked a field goal attempt that helped lead Clemson to victory.
Of course Wilkins most memorable play when it comes to his versatility is when he caught a 31-yard pass down the near sideline on a fake punt in the Tigers’ 2016 Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma. That was the first time in history a Clemson defensive lineman caught a pass. He showed great agility and athleticism on the play as hauled in the pass while keeping his balance and tip toeing down the sideline for another 14 yards to set up the Tigers’ first touchdown of the game.
After last year’s national championship game, during all the celebrations, Wilkins did a split in front of the cameras for the world to see. He admitted at the ACC Football Kickoff last week that he doesn’t know how he did that because he had never done that before and has not done it since.
Maybe Wilkins was able to do it because he is just one of those guys who can do just about anything and when he decides to do something, he just goes and does it, which is what makes him such an intriguing candidate for the Heisman Trophy and any national award for that matter.
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