There have been many talented players that played the tight end position at Clemson and played it well.
From 2009-2016, Clemson had four different players—Michael Palmer, Dwayne Allen, Brandon Ford, and Jordan Leggett—earn First Team All-ACC honors at tight end. Allen in 2010 and Leggett in 2015, also earned second-team honors.
In a span of eight years, six times the Tigers’ tight end made the prestigious team. Allen (2011) and Leggett (2015, 2016) both earned All-American status, while Allen won the John Mackey Award in 2011 as the nation’s best tight end. Leggett was a finalist for the Mackey Award in both 2015 and 2016.
In 2015 and 2016, Leggett totaled 86 receptions for 1,261 yards and 15 touchdowns, while averaging 14.6 yards per catch.
Before Allen and Leggett, Bennie Cunningham was the most decorated tight end in Clemson history and the ACC for that matter. Cunningham (6-5, 250) was ahead of his time for a tight end, as he used his size and speed to become one of the greatest tight ends in ACC history.
He caught 64 passes for 1,044 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career, all Clemson records for a tight end at the time. He became Clemson’s first consensus All-American, regardless of position, in 1974 and then the Tigers’ first two-time First-Team All-American the following year.
In 1976, Cunningham was taken in the first-round of the NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and by 1978 he was starting on a team that had already won two Super Bowls. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound athlete became the first former Tiger to win two Super Bowls, as he helped the Steelers win World Championships in 1978 and 1979.
Allen is a great example of how being patient and waiting your turn can pay off. After learning to play behind All-ACC tight end Michael Palmer, Allen got his shot to show what he can do in 2010 and became perhaps the greatest tight end Clemson has ever had.
Allen broke all of Cunningham’s single-season and career records while becoming a two-time All-ACC Player as well as a consensus All-American in 2011. In 2011, he caught what is still a Clemson record 50 passes for a tight end for 598 yards and a school-record eight touchdowns for a single-season. He finished his career with a school-record 93 catches for 1,079 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In 2012, Allen was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the NFL Draft. He played for the Colts and the Patriots during his eight-year career, while playing in two Super Bowls for New England. He was part of the Patriots’ Championship team in 2018.
Palmer caught 43 passes for 507 yards and four scores in 2009 while earning First-Team All-ACC honors. He finished his Clemson career with 73 catches for 825 yards and eight touchdowns before going on to an NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 2012, Ford earned First-Team All-ACC honors with 40 catches for 480 yards and eight touchdowns, tying Allen’s single-season record for a tight end. Leggett also tied the mark with eight touchdown receptions in 2015.
Leggett shattered all of Allen’s career records. From 2013-’16, he hauled in 112 passes for 1,598 yards and 18 touchdowns, all Clemson record for a tight end. After his playing days at Clemson, Leggett was drafted by the New York Jets in the fifth round in 2017 and he currently plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Clemson tight ends By the Numbers
1: Is the number of tight ends named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Team in 2003. Clemson’s Bennie Cunningham was that tight end.
3: The number of times a Clemson tight end was named a finalist for the John Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s best tight end. Dwayne Allen won the award in 2011 and Jordan Leggett was a finalist in 2015 and 2016.
4: Is the number of former Clemson tight ends that won a Super Bowl. John McMakin helped the Steelers win Super Bowl IX in 1974. Bennie Cunningham won Super Bowls XIII and XIV with the Steelers. K.D. Dunn helped the Washington Redskins win Super Bowl XXII, while Dwayne Allen helped New England win Super Bowl LIII.
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