Clemson offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst knows as a former teammate of Christian Wilkins that he is one of a kind and there is nobody quite like the former Tiger star defensive lineman and current Miami Dolphin.
“Christian’s a unique guy,” Bockhorst said. “It would be hard to replicate what Christian brought to the table. That guy, he’s different, in a good way.”
Bockhorst played with Wilkins during the 2017 and 2018 seasons and learned a lot from him about leadership and what it takes to compete at the college level.
The two players are similar in terms of their toughness, physicality and willingness to engage in smack talk, so it’s no surprise they got tangled up at times during practice when Wilkins was an established starter and Bockhorst was a youngster on the other side of the ball trying to earn his stripes.
But over time, despite any run-ins they had on the practice field, Bockhorst and Wilkins really grew to respect one another with the way they each went about their business.
“Christian and I, speaking back to my scout team days, we used to butt heads a little bit,” Bockhorst recalled. “For me, I was just the stubborn guy from Ohio and I was tired of getting pummeled. But I think we definitely came into a level of mutual respect, and he’s someone that I really look up to.”
As good as Wilkins was on the field for Clemson from 2015-18 as a three-time All-ACC selection and three-time All-American, Bockhorst remembers him just as much for the kind of teammate he was off the field.
“I think that he played the game with tremendous physicality and intensity, but he was always there for me off the field and other teammates as well,” Bockhorst said.
Now, the redshirt junior Bockhorst is a veteran presence in Clemson’s locker room that younger guys on the team can look up to, much like Wilkins once was.
As he steps into a starting role at offensive guard this season, Bockhorst desires to play with the type of passion and competitive fire Wilkins had, while at the same time being himself.
“The biggest thing I would say is just be who you are,” Bockhorst said. “He was not afraid to be Christian Wilkins, but he was just an elite competitor, and that’s something that I would love to emulate if I could.”
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