Going from college to pro wasn’t an easy transition for Clemson DT

Going from college to pro wasn’t an easy transition for Clemson DT


Going from college to pro wasn’t an easy transition for Clemson DT


Coaches and players say it all the time.

There is a big adjustment for most high school players to the college game. In most cases, it is the speed of the game. Guys who are the big-men on campus in high school, have a difficult time adjusting to the college game because they have not played against this caliber of an athlete before … bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter.

What is it like when a football player goes from college to the NFL? It is a completely different experience all together.

“In college, you were bigger than guys. You were faster than guys and you were more cerebral. You were able to outthink players,” former Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said recently in an interview with Eric Mac Lain for the ACC Network’s Instagram Live. “Now, it is like you have a ten-year veteran across from you, who has a wife and kids at home, who is a grown man, who has seen way more football than you have seen and it is like you kind of have nothing for him.”

College was easy for Wilkins. At Clemson he became a three-time First-Team All-American, while leading the Tigers to two national championships. He also helped form one of the greatest defensive lines in the history of college football in 2018. That defensive front dominated its opponents on Saturdays in the fall.

However, Wilkins quickly learned playing on Sundays is a different kind of beast. After being drafted No. 13 overall by the Miami Dolphins in last year’s NFL Draft, the former Clemson star started 14 of the 16 games he played in. What he noticed was the guy across from him was a grown man, a season veteran. He was not a snot-nosed freshman or sophomore … the kind Wilkins saw a lot of during his time at Clemson.

“He has seen about everything you are about to throw at him,” Wilkins explained. “It’s like, ‘Alright, I have seen this!’ It is really just that overall experience because guys have so much more experience and football knowledge that it is tougher to just find ways to beat them.

“Guys know, ‘The ball is going here? I just have to get in your way so you can’t get there.’ It is more mental at the next level than ever before. That is what I say the biggest adjustment is.”

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