One of the best decisions of Sammy Watkins’ life was coming to Clemson. That’s what the Kansas City wide receiver told the media earlier this week as the Chiefs get set to play the San Francisco 49ers Sunday in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
Watkins came to Clemson from Fort Myers, Florida, where he was one of the best receivers in the country coming out of high school in 2011. By the start of his second practice, Watkins moved up to starter status, a spot he kept during his entire three-year career at Clemson.
The 6-1, 210-pound receiver later became a First-Team All-American after setting freshman and overall records for a wide receiver in his first year. In catching a then single-season best 82 catches for a record 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011, Watkins helped the Tigers win their first ACC Championship in 20 years.
“It was probably one of the best decisions I ever made in my life going there,” Watkins said about attending Clemson.
But it was not always easy at Clemson. In the spring of his sophomore year, Watkins was arrested and charged with misdemeanor drug possession, which he later expunged from his permanent record with community service work.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was still tough on him, though. He suspended his star wideout for the first two games of the 2012 season, including the Tigers’ matchup with SEC foe Auburn in Atlanta. It was the start of a rocky year for Watkins, who also suffered a high-ankle sprain that limited him for several games in 2012.
Watkins missed three games in 2012 and caught just 57 passes for 708 yards and three touchdowns. He then reinjured his ankle on the first play of the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU and did not return to the game.
The disappointment of the 2012 season motivated Watkins in ’13, and he turned in a season that still has not been duplicated by a Clemson receiver.
Watkins set a Clemson record with 101 receptions for a record 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was once again an All-American and in his last Clemson game he set an Orange Bowl and Clemson record with 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns in leading Clemson to a 40-35 win over Ohio State. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player afterwards.
“I think Coach Swinney was one of the hardest persons (to get on me) in my life,” Watkins said. “Coach [Jeff] Scott, who is at USF now and is the head coach, Brad Scott, they all did a great job with me. I would not be here without those guys.”
Watkins finished his Clemson career with a Clemson record 240 receptions for a record 3,391 yards. He is also tied for the career record for receiving touchdowns in a career with 27.
“They helped me in every phase of my life as a man,” he said. “They were really hard on me. They are a part of my family now. I cannot thank those guys enough.”
Watkins played a big part in helping the Chiefs reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years when he caught seven passes for 114 yards, including the game clinching touchdown – a 60-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes in the AFC Championship Game.
This season, Watkins caught 52 passes for 673 yards and scored three touchdowns, while playing in 14 regular season games. In the playoffs, so far, he has 12 receptions for 190 yards.
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