The Clemson Tigers have become one of the most dominant teams in college football over the past decade. Under Dabo Swinney, Clemson won two national championships, eight conference titles and was a constant threat in the national title chase. The Tigers were one of the most successful teams in the college football playoff era, with Alabama and Georgia as their only competition.
Naturally, some of the greatest college football players in recent history have played at Clemson. However, there are a few historic players who also rank among the greatest Tigers of all time. Today we are going to rank the five greatest Clemson football players of all time.
Before we get to the list, however, we have a few honorable mentions to dole out. Linebacker Jeff Davis (1978-1981), inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007, terrorized opposing offenses during his time at Clemson, and his 469 career tackles are still the third in college history. school. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (2010-12) was a monster on offense and ranks in the Clemson’s top five in most receiving stats. Trevor Lawrence (2018-20) and Travis Etienne (2017-20) have dominated in recent years and won a national title together.
With honorable mentions aside, here are Clemson’s top five football players of all time.
5. DT William Perry, 1981-84
William “The Refrigerator” Perry is one of the most iconic football players of all time due to his massive height. Most know him as a member of the legendary Chicago Bears from 1985, and his Super Bowl touchdown will be remembered forever. At Clemson, Perry did exactly what he did professionally, and he even earned his nickname in college.
Perry recorded 25 sacks and 60 tackles for loss during his time at Clemson, leaving the program as the all-time leader in both (deservingly, his younger brother Michael Dean Perry broke his sack record a few years later). late). He was a three-time All-American and played a key role on the 1981 national championship team.
4. WR Sammy Watkins, 2011-13
In the early 2010s, DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins combined to form one of the most fearsome wide receiver duos in college football history. One would assume that Hopkins had the better stats based on their current situation, but that was not the case. In fact, Watkins was the greatest receiver to ever play for Clemson.
Throughout his three-year career, Watkins had 240 receptions, 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. He is the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards, tied for first in receiving touchdowns and second in receptions. Many great receivers have donned the Clemson uniform over the years, but Watkins is the best of them all.
3. RB Banks McFadden, 1938-40
Banks McFadden may be the least familiar name on this list, but he is the most influential athlete in Clemson history. McFadden played football, basketball, and ran track during his time at Clemson, and thrived in all three. In football, he was the Tigers’ first All-American and led them to their first-ever bowling game in 1939.
McFadden only played one season in the NFL before returning to Clemson as a coach. At his alma mater, he was head basketball coach from 1946 to 1956 and assistant football coach as well. McFadden may no longer hold school records, but he is a truly legendary figure in Clemson athletics.
2. RB CJ Spiller, 2006-09
CJ Spiller was one of the most exciting college football players of all time thanks to his incredible speed. From rushing to receiving to kicking back, Spiller did it all at Clemson. His induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2021 only cements his place in football history.
During his illustrious career, Spiller totaled 4,967 yards and 43 scrimmage touchdowns. His stats don’t end there, as he also had 2,621 yards and eight touchdowns as a returner. He won numerous accolades throughout his career, including ACC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American selection in 2009. Spiller was a truly electric player in college and had to watch TV every time he took the field.
1. QB Deshaun Watson, 2014-16
Deshaun Watson is the greatest player in Clemson football history, not just for his stats, but for what he has done for the program. Watson elevated the Tigers from a consistently strong team to a perennial national title contender. He led Clemson to a 28-2 record in his two seasons as a full-time starter, appearing in two national championship games and winning one of them.
Statistically, Watson is the most decorated quarterback in school history. He’s second to Tajh Boyd in career passing yards and touchdowns, but he’s done it in a season less. His 4,593 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2016 are the best single-season marks in school history, and his 2015 totals aren’t far behind.
Without Watson, it’s entirely possible that Clemson will remain in limbo of being good but not great. Thanks to him, the Tigers have recently become one of the most dominant teams in the sport.