Skip to main content

The Clemson football program has fielded some incredible talent throughout the years.

From the leather helmet days of Banks McFadden to a swag surfin’ Christian Wilkins under the lights of Death Valley, Clemson has enjoyed a wealth of talent on the gridiron.

Here are some of the best players to ever don the Paw for Clemson University and briefly explain how they made the list for an All-time Clemson football team:

Quarterback

Deshaun Watson (2014-2016)

Some of these selections won’t require much explaining and Watson undoubtedly fits the bill. Watson was a two-time Davey O'Brien Award winner and a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist. He guided the Tigers to a pair of national championship game appearances, including a 2016 title. The Gainesville, Ga., native left Clemson with 10,163 passing yards and 90 touchdowns.

Running Backs

Raymond Priester (1994-1997)

Some have argued Priester is the best back in Clemson history and the record books certainly support the claim. Priester tallied a school-record 14 career 100-yard performances, started the most games st running back (42) and posted a program-best 31 straight starts. He had three 1,000-yard seasons and was only 34 yards shy of 4,000 rushing yards for his career.

Travis Etienne (2017-2020)

Completed one of the most prolific careers in Clemson, ACC and college football history across the 2017-20 seasons … rushed 686 times for 4,952 yards with 70 rushing touchdowns and caught 102 passes for 1,155 and eight receiving touchdowns in 1,852 career snaps over 55 games (42 starts) … part of a senior class that helped Clemson to four ACC titles, four College Football Playoff berths, two national championship appearances and a national title, all while becoming the first FBS senior class since 2010 to go undefeated at home (27-0 at Death Valley) … NCAA FBS record holder for most career games scoring a touchdown (46 of his 55 career games), breaking the mark held by San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey … ACC career record-holder for rushing yards (4,952), total touchdowns (78), rushing touchdowns (70) and points (468).

Wide Receivers

Sammy Watkins (2011-2013)

Arguably the biggest recruiting win in the Dabo Swinney era, Watkins was highly regarded as one of the most explosive players in all of college football during his time at Clemson. In only three seasons, he compiled 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. He holds numerous school records including career receptions, receiving yards and 100-yard receiving games. He’s a three-time, first-team All-American.

Deandre Hopkins catches a pass for a first down in the fourth quarter of Clemson's 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over LSU. 

Deandre Hopkins catches a pass for a first down in the fourth quarter of Clemson's 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over LSU. 

DeAndre Hopkins (2010-2012)

The hometown favorite often referred to as “Nuk”, Hopkins recorded 3,020 receiving yards (second in school history) for 27 career touchdowns (tied for first in school history). He had at least one catch in each of his final 36 career games. He's widely remembered for his unbelievable, sliding, 26-yard grab from Tajh Boyd on fourth-and-16, which set up Chandler Catanzaro’s game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired in the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl against LSU.

Tee Higgins (2017-2019)

Higgins matched Watkins and Hopkins with 27 career touchdowns through the air. Most known for his vertical prowess, reliable hands and uncanny catch radius, the Oak Ridge, Tenn., native racked up 2,248 yards and leaves Clemson as the only player to record double-digit touchdown receptions in consecutive seasons.

Tight End

Bennie Cunningham was a local legend at Seneca High School prior to a legendary collegiate career at Clemson and professionally with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bennie Cunningham was a local legend at Seneca High School prior to a legendary collegiate career at Clemson and professionally with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bennie Cunningham (1972-1975)

Another local legend makes the All-Time Clemson roster with Seneca, S.C., native. Cunningham was a two-time, first-team All-American and was the first African-American in school history to garner the honor. He had 64 receptions for 1,044 yards and 17 career touchdowns, including seven in 1974.

Offensive Line

Joe Bostic (1975-1978)

A two-time All-American at guard, Bostic is a Clemson Hall of Famer and paved the way for his younger brother, Jeff, to also attend Clemson. He was a four-year starter in Tiger Town. Joe was first-team All-ACC and awarded the Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 1977 and 1978.

Kyle Young (1998-2001)

Young is the only three-time first-team Academic All-American in any sport in the Clemson record books and one of just two in college football history for offensive linemen. A hometown hero from nearby D.W. Daniel High School, Young was a finalist for the Remington Award in 2000 and 2001. He’s a three-time All-ACC selection as well.

Stacy Long (1986-1990)

Consensus first-team All-American his senior season in Tigertown tallying 141 knockdowns in his career. A two-time All-ACC selection-- Long played a large role in the 38 Clemson victories during his time on the offensive line. The 1990 Outland Trophy finalist was a six-time ACC player of the week award winner.

Mitch Hyatt (2015-2018)

This four-year starter and two-time All-American is a lock on the All-Time Clemson squad. Hyatt played 3,754 snaps in 58 games (57 starts) at Clemson. One of just five consensus All-American offensive linemen in program history. He’s a two-time national championship winner and was a four-time All-ACC selection.

Dalton Freeman (2009-2012)

Perhaps Clemson’s most decorated center in school history, Freeman had 171 knockdowns in 3,361 career snaps. He started the final 49 times in his 53-game appearances. The Pelion, S.C., native was named an All-American in 2012 and was first-team All-ACC in 2011 and 2012. Additionally, he was a two-time Rimington Award finalist.

Defensive Line

William Perry (1981-1984)

Despite tipping the scale at over 300 pounds, Perry wowed fans and opposing players with this quickness and athletic ability. A national champion and two-time ACC champion, he clipped his time at Clemson with 60 tackles for loss and 27 sacks. Additionally, he was the first in school history to earn All-American status three times in his career.

Scroll to Continue

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

Chris Vizzina at Elite 11

(WATCH) Clemson QB Commit Chris Vizzina Competes at Elite 11

Clemson QB commit Chris Vizzina turned in a solid showing at this year's Elite 11 competition.

Thomas Austin

Clemson Picks Up Commitment From 2023 Offensive Lineman

Clemson added to its 2023 recruiting class on Monday as the Tigers picked up a commitment from offensive lineman Zechariah Owens.

Homer Jordan

10 Best Wins in Clemson Football History

Clemson has played football for 126 years and has collected some of the greatest wins in the history of college football. But there is only room for 10 on this list. How do I narrow this endless list to just 10?

Clemson's William Perry is pictured above during a 1984 Clemson home game in Death Valley.

Clemson's William Perry is pictured above during a 1984 Clemson home game in Death Valley.

Gaines Adams (2003-2006)

A native of nearby Greenwood, S.C., Gaines was a fan favorite. While at Clemson, he played in 48 games and accumulated 168 tackles (44.5 tackles for loss) and 28 sacks. He was also responsible for 21 pass breakups while causing five fumbles in his career. Adams, who passed away in 2010, is widely remembered for his 66-yard fumble return on a botched field goal at Wake Forest. The play helped spark a fourth-quarter rally for the Tigers in Winston-Salem.

Jeff Bryant (1978-1981)

Bryant is often forgotten due to playing alongside the likes of William Perry, Jeff Davis and Terry Kinard on Clemson’s 1981 championship team. By his senior season, he was the leader of a defense that allowed less than 100 yards rushing per game and allowed a stingy 8.2 points per opponent. Tallied a team-best 19 tackles for loss during the national championship season.

Christian Wilkins (2015-2018)

Wilkins was a three-time, first-team All-American with a long list of accolades ranging from William V. Campbell Trophy winner, Willis Award, thee-time All-ACC selection and NFF National Scholar-Athlete Selection. Finished his career with 250 tackles (including 41 tackles for loss), 16 sacks, 56 quarterback pressures and three forced fumbles. Scored three touchdowns in his career, two rushing and one receiving.

Linebackers

Wayne Simmons (1989-1992)

The late Wayne Simmons played in 45 games spanning over four years in Clemson finishing with 206 tackles (including 36 tackles for loss) and 19 sacks. He posted a season-high 59 tackles during his freshman season in 1989. His 73-yard pick-six helped key Clemson’s 34-23 victory at Florida State in 1989.

Levon Kirkland (1988-1991)

A 1991 All-American, Kirkland was a force for the Tigers with 274 tackles including 40 tackles for loss and 19 sacks. In 1989 he was named the Gator Bowl MVP. He helped lead Clemson to a pair of ACC championships and four top-20 finishes.

Isaiah Simmons (2017-2019)

The most versatile defender in school history with significant snaps at linebacker, safety and cornerback during his three years at Clemson. Finished his college career with 253 tackles (28.5 tackles for loss), 10.5 sacks, 22 pass breakups and four interceptions. Butkus Award winner in 2019 and ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Cornerbacks

Donnell Woolford (1985-1988)

Woolford was a first-team All-American in 1987 and 1988. He finished his time at Clemson with 187 tackles and 10 interceptions and 44 pass breakups. He was also a weapon in the return game with two punt returns for touchdowns in his career.

Mackensie Alexander (2013-2015)

While his stat sheet isn’t the sexiest on paper, Alexander was a lockdown corner and quarterbacks rarely threw to this side of the field. He allowed just one touchdown in 27 games in his career and went the final 25 games pitching a shutout. Though he never recorded an interception, he notched 12 pass breakups.

Safeties 

Clemson's Brian Dawkins tackles Florida State's Warrick Dunn in the Tiger's 1994 trip to Tallahassee. 

Clemson's Brian Dawkins tackles Florida State's Warrick Dunn in the Tiger's 1994 trip to Tallahassee. 

Brian Dawkins (1992-1995)

An absolute no-brainer to include arguably the best defensive player in Clemson history. Prior to becoming the program's first Pro Football Hall of Famer, he tallied 247 tackles and 11 interceptions. A three-year starter and earned first-team All-ACC honors in 1995. As a senior, he set a school record with three interceptions in a single quarter against Duke.

Terry Kinard (1978-1982)

No shortage of accolades for the first Clemson player to be named a unanimous All-American. He was the first two-time All-American defensive back for the Tigers. In his collegiate career, he recorded 17 interceptions (school record), 30 pass breakups and 292 tackles. He anchored a defense that went 12-0 in 1981 capturing the school’s first national championship.

Kicker

David Treadwell (1984-1987)

In a conversation concerning clutch placekickers in Clemson history, Treadwell not only has a seat at the table, but he probably is sitting at the head chair. He is forever stitched into Clemson glory having nailed a pair of game-winning field goals in the final moments to defeat Georgia in 1986 and again in 1987. Treadwell earned All-American honors in 1987 after converting on 18-of-22 attempts.

David Treadwell is pictured above kicking the 1986 game-winner as time expired in a 31-28 thriller in Athens.

David Treadwell is pictured above kicking the 1986 game-winner as time expired in a 31-28 thriller in Athens.

Punter 

Chris Gardocki (1988-1990)

Gardocki was a great kicker and punter for the orange and white. As a junior he ranked fourth nationally in both punting and placekicking becoming just the second player in NCAA history to finish in the top 10 in the same season and first player to do it twice.

Kick Returner 

Justin Miller (2002-2004)

Miller is an easy choice in the return game holding the school record for career yards per return (30.7). On a trip to Tallahassee in 2004, he took a pair of kickoffs the distance, setting an NCAA single-game record with 282 return yards on six returns. Miller also a solid cornerback with 13 career interceptions, including eight as a true freshman.

Punt Returner 

C.J. Spiller (2006-2009)

Many call Spiller the best all-around running back to ever play at Clemson. Though his kickoff return average (10.7) was nothing extraordinary, the big-play threat was what made Spiller so dangerous anytime he stepped on the field. He is currently sixth all-time in punt returns yards, including a 77-yard return against Boston College in 2009. 

The 2022 Tigers will look to make a run at a fourth national title this season, and are currently on FanDuel Sportsbook's list to win it all in 2022 at No. 4.

Want to join in on the discussion? 100% FREE! Interact with fellow Tiger fans and hear directly from publisher Zach Lentz, deputy editor Brad Senkiw, recruiting analyst Jason Priester and staff writer Will Vandervort on any subject. Click here to become a member of the ALL CLEMSON message board community today!