Clelin Ferrell has been part of big groups all his life.
He was one of nine siblings growing up in Virginia to military parents. He was one of five former Clemson defensive linemen invited to the NFL Combine. And he’s expected to be one of as many as 10 defensive linemen drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft in April.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of great players here, a lot of great players on the defensive line. For me, I’m just happy to be considered one of them,” Ferrell said at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “That’s all that really matters. I obviously have to set high expectations for myself, but I can’t get caught up in everything that comes with it. I kind of experienced the same thing at Clemson. People were trying to call us the greatest defensive line ever in the history of college football — and I think that we are — but that was something I had to think about after the season.”
Ferrell could be the first of those former Tigers selected in April. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com projects he’ll be the eighth pick in the draft by the Detroit Lions. Chad Reuter of NFL.com has him going 16th and making a short trip to play for the Carolina Panthers.
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“I just feel like my versatility is something that is very, very important when I feel like you talk about my game,” Ferrell said. “I feel like that has always given me an edge as far as giving me a benefit on the field. Not only just my versatility as a player — I can play defensive end, I played some defensive tackle this past year, 3-technique. I’ve also dropped into coverage, outside linebacker. But not only just doing those things, but I feel like I’ve done them at consistently a high level. That’s always given me a bit of confidence as far as my play.”
Ferrell had 27 sacks in his final three years at Clemson, including 11.5 as the Tigers won the national title last year. He was joined by Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, Dexter Lawrence and Bert Huggins at the NFL Combine, where he measured 6-foot-4.5, 264 pounds and did 25 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. Ferrell did not run the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis but is expected to at the Tigers Pro Day on Thursday.
Having so many teammates at the combine, 10 in all, helped Ferrell’s comfort level, he said.
“It’s crazy, but it’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s something that we worked hard for. We weren’t entitled to anything, we didn’t expect it, but it was always a goal for us to get to this moment and be invited to such a great event like this. It’s a blessing for real.”
Just like the big family he grew up in that helped him overcome the death of his father, a Vietnam veteran, when he was 13. Ferrell’s mother, a Desert Storm veteran, raised the 11 children on her own after that.
“Obviously, it’s a beautiful thing when you have so many different siblings and you all share something in common but you’re also all different,” he said. “You know you have different people that you can call on for anything. There’s never not somebody I can call for something or they can call me as well. It’s always good in that aspect, but it’s a lot of chaos as well. A lot of different personalities. They don’t always mix and jell, but at the end of the day it’s all love for sure.”