Former Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins is a now a Miami Dolphin, after the team made him the 14th pick in the NFL Draft. Wilkins is great at football. But his on-field performance is only the start of why Dolphins should be excited about him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy have more fun playing college football than Christian,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney told reporters late in 2018.
Wilkins had fun on his draft night, too. See how he greeted Roger Goodell:
Roger Goodell's life just flashed before his eyes pic.twitter.com/6QDx9uiCdC— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) April 26, 2019
1. For starters, he’s an absolutely dominant defensive tackle.
His Clemson numbers are impressive: 250 total tackles, 41 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, and 56 quarterback pressures across four seasons, with two national championships mixed in.
That doesn’t fully explain how good he is, because a lot of his best work is just in disrupting plays and sending the offense elsewhere. He was an anchor for a defense that was the best in the country by his senior season.
Here he is tossing aside a center for a strip fumble and near-sack:
Here he is bursting through a hole and blowing up a cutback lane:
As a senior, Wilkins had 20 run stuffs on his own. Teams preferred to just run away from him, and that didn’t work much, because the rest of Clemsons’ defense was so good, finishing No. 1 in S&P+ en route to the national title. In the NFL, Wilkins could be a one-man wrecking crew who creates chaos on every snap.
SB Nation’s Dan Kadar projects him as a middle-of-the-first-round pick.
2. He’s an enthusiastic dancer, and merely watching him do a split will make you sore.
After his team won 2016’s National Championship over Alabama, he stole the show during the Tigers’ trophy ceremony when he did a glorious split in the middle of the confetti:
Wilkins’ dancing was the subject of some discussion in the summer of 2018, when, at a charity event, he performed what looked like a striptease in front of and all around a fan:
So this is the benefit of being a booster for Clemson..... pic.twitter.com/OKOS7kNRYx— Zack (@VZRSportsZack) July 21, 2018
Some media and rival fans thought Wilkins had crossed a line. Clemson’s sports information director told The State “what’s been going around is certainly not indicative of what was actually going on.” More importantly, the woman in the video, Gina Tindall, said Wilkins did “nothing out of the way, nor did I,” telling Clemson site TigerNet:
It is super sad that the State newspaper has made this out to be something it isn’t. I know the video can seem to be more than it really was, but I promise Christian Wilkins did nothing out of the way or nor did I. He tore a black tank top off and that was gym shorts he was wearing. I can tell you he is one of my favorite players because he has such a big personality. He was the sweetest thing to all of the ladies on Saturday.
The whole thing blew over after a few days.
3. He can pair his dancing with an impression of his head coach.
Such as with this mimicking/mocking of a Swinney routine:
Here’s Swinney dabbing, for reference:
4. He’ll sing karaoke to Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.”
5. He’ll eat Krispy Kreme donuts while wearing a Krispy Kreme baker’s hat.
Really debating making this my new Twitter photo. pic.twitter.com/H8e0ISp8o8— David Ubben (@davidubben) November 20, 2016
6. He can help a defense in a bunch of ways most DTs cannot.
He’s technically a defensive tackle, but he can play anywhere around the line. Here he is (No. 42 in orange) as a stand-up outside linebacker, basically:
Here he is going against a right tackle one-on-one and beating him cleanly for a sack:
La défense de Clemson.— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) November 18, 2018
Christian Wilkins et Clellin Ferrell. 2 sacks. pic.twitter.com/jCeGQ3mUUB
Quick interlude: What the hell was this?
7. He can be your goal-line running back.
Here’s one exhibit:
8. He’ll dress up as a power ranger on Halloween.
9. He can convert fake punts, whether as a receiver or ball-carrier.
He can either take a direct snap and start running ...
... or slip away from coverage men and run wheel routes for big gainers:
Beautiful throw on that fake punt by Clemson pic.twitter.com/bpYw0Fpsow— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) December 31, 2015
Find yourself another 315-pounder who can do those things.
10. He likes a hearty breakfast and is really resourceful.
A third of the way through Clemson’s 2018 championship season, the Tigers made a change at QB, swapping in five-star freshman Trevor Lawrence for veteran Kelly Bryant. Wilkins was a team leader, and he went to breakfast with Lawrence. A legend took hold, as ESPN’s David Hale explained on a reporting trip to campus later in the season:
CLEMSON, S.C. — The most significant plate of eggs and bacon in the recent history of Clemson football was eaten a day after the Tigers’ route of Georgia Tech on Sept. 22, at Sunnyside Cafe, just down the road from campus, and was shared between the veteran leader of the defense and the young kid about to take over the offense.
Trevor Lawrence had just ascended to the throne after months of speculation about the future of Clemson’s quarterback job. Christian Wilkins had been the unquestioned voice of the locker room for years, and the defensive tackle wanted to offer his personal endorsement to the new guy, a show of support and, perhaps, a changing of the guard —all with a side of grits and coffee.
Wow! Pretty cool! But Wilkins explained how the breakfast came about:
“I was hungry,” Wilkins said of his motivation for scheduling the breakfast, “and Trevor had a car.”
11. He seems like a nice guy, as evidenced by him not destroying Alabama’s kicker on this play and instead just gently shoving him aside:
Power with your redshirt freshman kicker as the lead blocker into a defense playing for the fake pic.twitter.com/gNa2AESo7B— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) January 8, 2019
Doing anything more there would’ve just been mean.
There’s a lot more to Wilkins than dominant line play.
If his NFL career is anything close to as fun as his college one, we’re all in for a treat.