Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was one of 10 FBS student-athletes named Wednesday as a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, presented annually to an FBS senior with notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. The award program is designed exclusively for college seniors who are utilizing their complete athletic eligibility, remaining committed to their university and pursuing “the many rewards a senior season can bring.”
This season, Wilkins has helped anchor a Clemson defense that enters the week ranked in the Top 15 in the country in scoring defense (third), total defense (fourth), pass defense (fifth) and rush defense (14th), while also holding opponents to the fewest first downs in the country on average (14.1 allowed per game). The Clemson coaching staff has credited Wilkins with 24 tackles, including 5.5 for loss with 2.0 sacks, statistics he’s accrued despite averaging fewer than 40 snaps per game as the second-ranked Tigers have run out to a 7-0 start with an average victory margin of 28 points.
In addition to being a two-time All-America and All-ACC selection, Wilkins has been an academic standout as well. Last December, he earned his degree in communications, becoming the first scholarship Tiger football player to graduate in two-and-a-half years. This past year, he served as a substitute teacher in local schools, including assisting with special education.
Finalists for the award were chosen by a selection committee from the list of 30 candidates announced earlier in the season. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help select the winner, and fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award website through Dec. 5. Fan votes will be combined with media and Division I head coaches’ votes to determine the winner. The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the football bowl season in early January.
Wilkins joins a list of finalists that also includes Joe Dineen Jr. (Kansas), Will Grier (West Virginia), Hale Hentges (Alabama), Patrick Laird (Cal), Drew Lock (Missouri), Bryce Love (Stanford), Dalton Risner (Kansas State), Cameron Smith (USC) and Khari Willis (Michigan State).