ORANGEBURG— Orangeburg county has had its fair share of talented football players wear the orange and white of Clemson.
Whether it was Woody Dantzler, the first quarterback in NCAA history to pass for more the 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season, or Walter Merritt Riggs, the first football coach and President of Clemson University, or, more recently Jadar Johnson and Mike Williams—the number of Orangeburg county residents that have had an impact on the Tigers’ football program are almost too many to name.
However, there is one player that believes his time is coming—and when it comes, he is going to shine.
“I feel like these past two years, going on to my third year, has prepared me to do wondrous things on the field, and off the field, leading my teammates,” former Orangeburg-Wilkinson standout Albert Huggins said. “I really feel like they have prepared me for this position. So, whenever my chance comes, my opportunity comes, I’m going to shine.”
Huggins entered the Clemson program in January of 2015, however it wasn’t until his sophomore season that he saw his impact on the Tiger defense increase.
In 2015, Huggins had 12 tackles in 65 snaps over five games, but in 2016 he amassed 20 tackles, including three sacks, in 218 snaps over 13 games. He also had seven quarterback pressures.
Even though it has taken him a couple of years to find his place, after transitioning from defensive end (which he played in high school) to defensive tackle, Huggins takes solace in the fact that two members of Super Bowl runners-up, Atlanta Falcons, and former Tiger defensemen took a little while to find their place.
“I need to just to keep working hard. My mentality is to have the same mentality as a Grady Jarrett or a Vic Beasley,” Huggins said. “Vic was here for I don’t know how many years, played running back and then d-end—just trying to find where he fits at. It took Grady a while to get with some things too. So, just be patient and when my time comes I’m going to bring that mentality and just bring down the walls.”
Having two members of the Atlanta Falcons, who both bloomed later than what many had expected, to lean on is an advantage that Huggins is fortunate to have.
“Whenever they are around I ask them for advice,” Huggins continued. “How it is in the league? What you did here to be so successful? Whenever I get to see them, but they barely be around no day because they’re so busy. But when they are around, I ask them and try to take in—I try to be a sponge.”
Now a junior on a defense that returns seven starters, for the first time in his three years at Clemson, the defense will not be the group with the question marks surrounding them—that honor has shifted to the offense.
However, the Tiger defensive tackle does not see any need for Tiger fans to worry about the offense, even after losing the likes of Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott, Jordan Leggett and Jay Guillermo.
The reason for his confidence lies in the fact that the Tigers have proven their ability to recruit at a high-level, players who are ready to step up.
“We do a great job of recruitment, and I just feel like we are bringing in guys that are ready to play. Some guys it takes several years to get ready, but we have guys that will be ready to play,” Huggins said.
With only two weeks left in the spring, before the Tigers break from organized team practices until the fall, Huggins believes that, more than learning the plays, the Tigers need to focus on the chemistry to deem the spring session a success.
“Just to have a bond—to work on our chemistry, and just to get the plays down more. That’s all we need to work on. Just focus on Clemson,” Huggins said.
But even though, in his opinion, all the Tigers need to focus on is building that bond of a team—for himself, he understands that if he is going make a move for even more playing time in his junior season, he will have to improve on some things that have haunted him since arriving on campus.
“I really needed to work on my feet, my hands, my pad level—things I’ve been trying to work on ever since I got here,” Huggins said. “That’s just something that will carry on into the (NFL), probably. Just everyday trying to go out and get better.”
With two years in the books for Huggins, and only two years remaining to play college football, one thing is certain—he now knows how he wants to be remembered and the legacy that he wants to leave behind at Clemson.
“Just that I was a caring person that loves to laugh. Just a dedicated committed person,” Huggins said.