Clemson’s Christian Wilkins is known for being one of the top defensive linemen in college football thanks to his strength, quickness and physical presence.
But the senior is also known for his fun and outgoing personality that has been on full display throughout his time at Clemson.
Wilkins can constantly be seen smiling during games, practices and events on campus, perhaps more so now than at any previous point in his career as he is having “the best time I’ve had in my four years” in 2018.
“I just feel like this is definitely the closest team we’ve had... It’s just fun to watch the young guys and see their struggles and kind of help them through that,” Wilkins said. “Me being an older guy and kind of going through the same things, being able to help them through that, it’s just been great. I definitely just try to be the best that I can for my teammates and it makes it a lot more fun, a lot easier.”
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Clemson has plenty of leaders on its 2018 team, particularly on defense with nine of 11 starters being juniors and seniors.
But Wilkins stands out, according to Tigers coach Dabo Swinney.
“He’s an unbelievable teammate. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around. Just a dynamic personality but a great football player,” Swinney said. “He takes a lot of pride in his role as a leader and he’ll show up today and he’ll be excited for Tuesday practice because that’s just who he is and how he’s wired.”
Swinney believes one reason Wilkins is having so much fun this season is because he is not worried about his future as he plays this year.
Wilkins had a huge decision to make in the offseason following his junior year, and it was only natural for him to think about the future as he went through last season. Wilkins eventually decided to turn down the opportunity to enter the NFL draft and returned to Clemson for his senior season.
But now as a senior Wilkins knows that he will be in the NFL next year and there is no decision to make.
“Last year at this time he was torn and it was I think heavy on him whereas now he knows this is it. I just think he has really gone about it in a way where he’s just enjoyed it,” Swinney said. “I mean you go back to the spring game and he’s playing safety, just having a ball. He has just had a blast.”
Even as recently as last week Wilkins joined Swinney to hand out pizzas as Clemson students worked on homecoming floats. Wilkins has not looked back since opting to return for his senior year.
“It’s been everything I wanted out of this season. It’s been everything I expected and more. Not just on the field, but just off the field,” Wilkins said. “Everything I’ve learned, having this last opportunity to get closer to my teammates, building those relationships... Just being around the guys every day and appreciating them, knowing that it’s my last go-round for sure. Just trying to leave my mark and just leave a legacy.”