Yet another Saturday has passed us by without Clemson football, and the Orange Bowl seems as though it is a lifetime away. They have about three weeks to go before they take on the Tennessee Volunteers on December 30th, but Tiger Nation still needs their fix of the orange and purple giving an absolute masterclass to their opponents. The closest thing to that right now is if you wait another day and watch the NFL, where you see former Death Valley residents succeed at the highest level of play.
Good thing for Clemson fans, it’s quite hard not to see an alum cooking at the professional level. There are nearly 30 active NFL players who came from the Clemson program, and some of them are truly making their mark as greats in the league. While it’s the natural life-cycle of the talented football player, it makes us miss the times when they would do that in a Tiger uniform. Taking a trip down memory lane may be prescribed as the best coping mechanism for this feeling, which we’ll look to do with these Clemson greats.
1. Tee Higgins
This all-time Clemson great Tee Higgins has been following in the footsteps of Deandre Hopkins, and he is becoming an undeniable force at the pro level. Before he transitioned from Tiger to Bengel, he was a part of one of Dabo Swinney’s most talented squads ever. Two absolutely solid sophomore and junior seasons allowed Higgins to be drafted 33rd in the NFL. The national champion eclipsed over 1,000 receiving yards in his last year and hauled in 23 TDs over the course of his collegiate career. It’s no wonder this guy has what it takes to put up similar numbers at the next level.
2. Sammy Watkins
The all-time receiving yard leader at Clemson and the only guy to nip at the heels of Artavis Scott’s all-time receptions was the legend himself – Sammy Watkins. The Super Bowl Champion built up quite the resume before he went pro, tacking up 28 total touchdowns in three seasons of play. It’s fairly obvious why he was selected with the 4th pick in the NFL draft and has been an effective contributor for the Bills, Rams, Chiefs, Ravens, and Packers.
3. Hunter Renfrow
If an NFL team had everyone from this 2018 Clemson team on one offense, would they be a dark horse in the league?? That may be the case when you consider this other receiver from that historic Clemson team. Hunter Renfrow has had to deal with injuries this current 2022 season, but before that, he made a name for himself in Las Vegas and has had over 1,000 yards in 2021. Renfow always had fairly consistent play during his time at Clemson, coming in at 5th in all-time receptions and showing flashes of great professional potential. This allowed him to be drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
4. Deandre Hopkins
What we would have done to keep D-Hop for one more year, but he declared for the NFL draft after his ridiculous junior season. After a relatively quiet first couple of years on the team, he made sure to etch his name in college football history with a downright unforgettable year. He snagged 18 receiving touchdowns and accumulated over 1,400 receiving yards which placed him at #4 in the country. Eight times during that year he had triple-digit yards with a season-high of 202 yards against Wake Forest. He finished off his time with Clemson hauling in 191 yards against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The highlights speak for themselves.
Recent years have shown that Clemson houses these prolific athletes who end up becoming icons for the game of football. In a few years, we could very well see players from this current team amongst the ranks of these pros.