Clemson football defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant surprised many when they opted to return to school for the 2018 season rather than enter the NFL draft.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said the three wanted to improve their draft stock.
But Ferrell, who will be a redshirt junior this season, said there was more to his move than that.
“I want to leave a strong legacy. People think I came back just to improve my draft stock, and that really was one of the last reasons why I came back,” Ferrell said. “When I came to Clemson, I wanted to be one of the best players to come through here. That’s really the strongest reason why I came back … That was kind of the biggest thing for me, not just to improve my draft stock. If that was the only reason why I came back, then there’s no reason to come back.”
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Ferrell is well on his way to going down as a legend at Clemson.
The Virginia native was a first-team All-American last season after recording 63 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.
Still, he was given a second-round grade. Most experts had Ferrell pegged as a potential first-round pick, but he considered the second-round grade to be an honor.
“It didn’t really matter, I don’t pay attention to that stuff. I wasn’t really surprised by it, I was more like ‘OK, I’m not going to go off of what they say.’ (My decision) was (based) more so on how I felt. I was kind of blessed to hear that,” he said. “A second-round grade, that’s kind of crazy for me, only playing two years (in college).”
Ferrell went back and forth on his decision before ultimately announcing with Bryant that he would return to school a few days before the deadline for the draft.
Wilkins waited until deadline day to announce that he would return for his senior season.
“It’s a tough one,” Wilkins said. “When that opportunity comes up, you have to consider it. Having the opportunity to come back and be with my guys again and have a chance to get better, personally, I feel like that was the best thing to do.”
Ferrell’s decision was not based on what Bryant and Wilkins decided to do.
But he is glad that the three will have another year to play together.
“I mean, we talked about it, but you know, if you look at it, it would have been a naive decision, because, yeah, we could have all made the decision to leave together, but we’re not going to get drafted to the same team,” he said. “At the end of the day, we understood that we had to make the best decision for ourselves. Lucky for us, all of us felt like coming back.”