It had been almost an hour since the final seconds of Clemson’s national championship win over Alabama ran off the clock, but Austin Bryant was still on the field.
The senior stood at the 25-yard line and just soaked up every second he could. He knew this was going to be the last time he wore a Clemson uniform.
“It feels amazing. All the hard work that went into it. I feel grateful for each and every one of the guys on this team,” he said. “They mean more to me then they will ever know. This is a moment that I will never forget. I don’t even want to leave the field.”
That moment was the whole reason why Bryant decided to come back to Clemson in the first place. He was just a year removed from that decision, joining his fellow defensive linemen—Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins—who did the same thing.
The three teamed up with junior defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence to form the Power Rangers along Clemson’s defensive line. Together they became the best defensive line in the country, helping Clemson lead the nation in sacks (54) and tackles for loss (136).
They also allowed Clemson to lead the nation in yards allowed per rush (2.5) and in scoring defense (13.1).
“It is hitting me right now that it is over, but what a great way to go out,” Bryant said. “We are on top of the college football world and that is what we set out to do. To do it, I can’t even put it into words.”
Clemson did it by becoming the first major college team in the modern era to go 15-0. The Tigers won 13 of their 15 games by at least 20 points and won the last 10 by an average margin of 36.1 points per game.
They capped off the year by beating Notre Dame by 27 points in the Cotton Bowl Classic and then beating the Crimson Tide by 28 points, 44-16, in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Clemson outscored Alabama 30-0 from early in the second to the game’s conclusion.
“I don’t think we could have written a better script. What a great way to end it,” Bryant said.
As for Bryant, he finishes his Clemson career with 43 tackles in 2018, including 14.5 tackles for loss. Of those 14.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, eight were sacks. He finished third on the team in tackles for loss behind Ferrell and Wilkins and was second to Ferrell in sacks.
“It is great to get to ride off into the sunset. It was just an amazing feeling,” he said.
Bryant finished his Clemson career with 152 tackles. He had 35 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and of those, 20 were sacks. He also had 25 quarterback hurries, four deflected passes and one interception.
The defensive end was also part of a senior class at Clemson that went 55-4 in their four seasons, tied with Alabama’s seniors for the best all-time mark in the history of college football. They are also the first seniors, as members of the ACC, to win two national championships in their careers to go along with four outright ACC Championships as well.
They are also the first senior class in ACC history to win five bowl games.
“It is always surreal. You put in so much work and sometimes you lose sight of the end goal,” Bryant said. “But when you finally reach it and rep the benefits of it, it is amazing. Now that others have experienced it, they will be back again.”