CLEMSON– The Clemson Tigers continued to make history on the first night of the NFL Draft, when former Tiger quarterback Deshaun Watson and former Tiger, and Lake Marion Gator, Mike Williams became the first quarterback-wide receiver combination from the same school to be taken within the first 12 picks since the common draft began in 1967.
However, it is not just the high-profile recruits that the Tigers have molded into NFL-ready players.
“I think the biggest thing for us it’s not just been the Deshaun Watsons that have come in and come in highly recruited and developed nicely and get drafted high and things like that,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s also the guys that, you know, the Grady Jarretts, the Adam Humphreys, those type of guys.
“The Deshaun Williams that come in and they’re solid guys that they’ve developed at a high level throughout your program and get a chance to, let it be a free agent or whatever, go and fulfill their dream and be prepared to compete at that level.”
The Clemson program, since current head coach Dabo Swinney took over the program in 2008, has become a pipeline for the NFL with 45 former players (last season) having made NFL rosters last season.
Twenty-five of the 45 players have appeared in an NFL game and 36 of the 45 have been on a NFL roster previously, with the Arizona Cardinals boasting the most former TIgers (five), while the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints have three apiece.
For a program that has acquired the nickname of “wide receiver university” or “WRU” due to its prowess of sending elite receivers to the NFL (six), it is the defensive side of the ball that boasts the most dominant presence in the league with 27 players.
The impact of the Clemson program can be seen tangibly through the sheer number of players that have made it to the NFL, as well as in their staying power once arriving in the NFL–with Chris Clemons is currently entering his ninth year, and 12 of the former Tigers are currently entering their fifth year in the league
But for Swinney the impact that those players have had on recruiting is hard to measure–but it is there.
“I don’t really know how to measure that tangibly, but it certainly doesn’t hurt your program,” Swinney said. “I think anytime you’re bringing young people in your program, and you see a lot of those guys having a chance to fulfill their dream athletically and academically. I think that’s a positive.”
And even as the Clemson Tigers hope to continue to be a pipeline for the NFL, the focus for Swinney and his coaching staff will always be to get the players that they believe are the best fit for the Clemson program.
“I don’t know how to measure it (the impact on recruiting),” Swinney said. “What we’re always after is trying to get the best player that fits our program, and have, you know consistency year-in and year-out.”