Former Clemson star defender Isaiah Simmons was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 8 pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Simmons played all over the field on defense during his career as a Tiger and was named the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker in 2019, when he also became the sixth unanimous All-American in Clemson history.
In the words of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, the Cardinals are getting a “unicorn” in Simmons.
“Isaiah Simmons is as advertised,” Swinney said, per ClemsonTigers.com. “The reason he has become so intriguing to so many people is because of his versatility. He’s a graduate and he’s incredibly smart from a football standpoint. He played five positions and clearly wanted to execute at different positions for us, which demonstrates his knowledge and his diversity. But he’s a unicorn. You don’t find guys like him that can play safety, that can cover, that can blitz like a defensive end, and that can play linebacker. He’s a great special teams guy. There’s really nothing he can’t do. The biggest thing I can say about Isaiah is if you get 53 men on a roster, he’s like having 56.”
Simmons is Clemson’s 12th top-10 pick all-time and, including the No. 4 overall pick of Clelin Ferrell last year, gave Clemson back-to-back drafts with a top-10 selection for the third time in Clemson history (1982-83 with Jeff Bryant and Terry Kinard; Sammy Watkins and Vic Beasley in 2014-15).
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables believes Simmons has a bright future in Arizona.
“The first thing they’re getting is a tremendous teammate and leader,” Venables said. “He’s somebody that’s very committed to his craft, somebody that has as much passion for football and being great as anybody that we’ve been around. In regards to his playing ability, he’s a tenacious competitor that hates to lose. He’s incredibly gifted, but his best football is still ahead of him. He’s very dynamic in his skillset and has incredible position flexibility. He’s as impactful as a player that we’ve had at Clemson, and he does that not only through his play on defense but also through his love of special teams.”
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