It didn’t take long for Clemson’s three defensive linemen that were potential high NFL Draft picks to hear their names called during the first round Thursday night. The Tigers made history in the process.
The Oakland Raiders selected Clelin Ferrell No. 4 overall. Christian Wilkins went to the Miami Dolphins with the No. 13 pick. The New York Giants drafted Dexter Lawrence at No. 17.
It was the first time Clemson produced three first-round picks in a single draft.
Wilkins was the only one of the three at the actual draft in Nashville, Tennessee. His emotional on-stage celebration nearly knocked over commissioner Roger Goodell.
Wilkins will be reunited with former Clemson defensive line coach Marion Hobby in Miami. Hobby is the defensive line coach for the Dolphins. He served as the defensive line coach at Clemson from 2011-16.
“It’s everything I imagined. I just can’t wait to be a part of this league and be an ambassador for this league,” Wilkins told ESPN. “This game is so special. I love it so much. It deserves to be played the right way. I’m going to do that in the league. The Dolphins are going to get everything out of me.”
Wilkins won the Campbell Trophy, which is also known as the Academic Heisman, as a senior for the Tigers.
Clemson won the ACC and reached the College Football Playoff in all four seasons Wilkins played for the Tigers. He helped Clemson to two national titles.
Wilkins had 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks as a senior. He was also a permanent team captain and arguably Clemson’s most important leader. He was named a unanimous first-team All-American.
“It’s just feeling great. I’m just ready to tear this league up and become a part of something bigger than myself,” Wilkins said. “Be accountable for everything and just make the Dolphins a better organization.”
Ferrell was selected No. 4 overall by the Raiders after being projected to be a mid-to-late first round pick leading up to the draft. He won two national titles during his time at Clemson, leading the Tigers in tackles for loss with 19.5 and sacks with 11.5 in 2018. He won the Ted Hendricks Award presented to the nation’s top defensive end this past season. Ferrell was a finalist for the award in 2017.
Lawrence left Clemson early for the NFL draft after recording 44 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks during his junior season. He helped the Tigers to the national title in 2016 and 2018, although he missed the College Football Playoff in 2018 after testing positive for the banned substance ostarine leading up to the playoff.
Christian Wilkins had never gone speed dating, or gone on a blind date, or experienced anything quite like the frenzy of intimate interactions in a fast-paced environment he did on Wednesday, a day before he expected to hear his name called in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound defensive tackle from Clemson continually captivated his audience. Guided by his agent, Austin Lyman of Athletes First, he moved from table to table, mingling with executives from high-end companies during an ultra-productive two hours. And he never flinched.
“This type of stuff is pretty easy for me,” he said with a smile, “just interacting with people, talking to people. It’s just what I love to do.”
That made him a complete hit Wednesday evening at Nashville Underground on lower Broadway, where Wilkins was among 25 top college prospects – including Kyler Murray, Quinnen Williams and Greedy Williams — who attended CHOSEN, an exclusive networking and brand-building event hosted by The Marketing Arm, a marketing and promotion agency.