Clemson March Madness: Who are the best athletes in Clemson history?


by - Correspondent -
21 All-American honors and countless All-ACC honors in the first round of the bracket.
21 All-American honors and countless All-ACC honors in the first round of the bracket.

Our version of March Madness is using the extra time at home now to recognize the best competitors in Clemson athletics history. 

Our first bracket region, compiled with a mix of TigerNet staff and fan nominations, includes 21 All-American honors and three members of national championship teams, as well as a slew of all-conference team spots and ACC and school record-holders. 

How hard it is to boil down over a hundred years of Clemson athletics into a 64-athlete bracket? Just look at the multi-nomination competitors not in the bracket:

Honorable mentions (multiple nominations): Clelin Ferrell (FB), Ben Boulware (FB), Chris Gardocki (FB), Dwayne Allen (FB), Charlie Waters (FB), Keith Adams (FB), Justin Miller (FB), Raymond Priester (FB), Ed McDaniel (FB), Rodney Williams (FB), Dwight Clark (FB), Buddy Gore (FB), Jerry Butler (FB), Mackensie Alexander (FB), David Miller (BSB), Ken Vining (BSB), KJ McDaniels (BKB), James Mays (BKB), Chris Whitney (BKB), Ed Scott (BKB), Noel Loban (WRE), Deliah Arrington (WSOC), Nnamdi Nwokocha (MSOC).  

Here's the full Clemson March Madness bracket:

Click here or on the image for larger view

This exercise, which is measuring the top accomplishments while they were collegiate athletes, is meant to be fun and a celebration of Clemson athletes across the decades. Debate for your favorites in the bracket (or talk up the Tigers not in the field of 64) and examine the profiles for your pick of this elite group of Tigers. Without further ado, vote below (10 a.m. ET 3/24 deadline for votes)!


Cemetery Hill Region


Case for Kennedy-Dixon

Played: 1978-82

* Two-time All-American after averaging 27.7 points and 11.4 rebounds as a forward for the Tigers in 1981 and 1982. Also the only three-time, first-team All-ACC pick in Clemson basketball history.

* Kennedy-Dixon led the NCAA with 29.3 points per game as a senior (ACC all-time best). Her 12.9 rebounds per game that season is also an ACC all-time leader. She paced the conference in steals per game that year too (3). 

* Kennedy-Dixon has the top-three seasons in ACC history in points per game (1982 - 29.3; 1981 - 26.2, 1980 - 23.7) and the top-two and three of the top-five for total points (1982 - 908; 1980 -  853; 1981 - 811). Her 3,113 total career points were over 400 clear of the next-best in ACC history going into the 2019-20 season (Duke’s Alana Beard, 2,687).

Case for Whitehurst

Played: 2002-05

* Second-team All-ACC QB in 2005 where he posted the fourth-best single-season completion percentage in school history (67.4), tossing for 2,483 yards and averaging 7.3 yards per pass.

* Second-most completions (817), third-most passing yards (9,665) and total offensive yards (9,763) and fourth-most passing touchdowns in school history (49). Third in school history with 24 200-yard-plus passing games.

* First Clemson starting QB to go 4-0 versus South Carolina. Fourth-best passing yards per game mark in 2003 (273.9).

TigerNet staff vote: 100% Kennedy-Dixon.

Case for Tuttle

Played: 1978-81

* First-team All-American in Clemson’s 1981 national champion season, accounting for over half of the Tigers’ receiving production (883 yards) in a run-geared scheme, scoring eight touchdowns and averaging 17 yards per catch. He led the Tigers in kickoff return yards also (266 yards). 

* Ranks sixth in school history in receiving yards (2,534) and ninth in receiving touchdowns (17). 

* Tuttle was selected 19th overall in the 1982 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills.

Case for Kirkland

Played: 1988-91

* Two-time All-American and three-time first-team All-ACC honoree.

* Earned first-team and consensus All-American honors as a senior with 67 tackles (12 for loss), 5.5 sacks, six pass breakups and 15 QB pressures.

* Other recognition includes being a Clemson Ring of Honor member, 1989 Gator Bowl MVP and a freshman All-American.

TigerNet staff vote: 100% Kirkland.

Case for Beer

Played: 2016-18

* Second three-time All-American in school history, joining Rusty Adkins, leading the Tigers in home runs three seasons in a row with 56 total and 177 RBIs. 

* National player of the year as a freshman when he hit .369 with 57 runs, 13 doubles, 18 homers and 70 RBIs with a .700 slugging percentage, .535 on-base percentage, 62 walks, 15 hit-by-pitches and one steal in 62 starts.

* Career .321 hitter with 180 walks (35 intentional) to only 98 strikeouts (plus 42 hit-by-pitches) before a first-round MLB draft selection (Houston Astros, 28th overall). Left school No. 1 in Clemson history in slugging percentage (.648; min. 500 at-bats).

Case for Robinson

Played: 2018-20

* National player of the year (MAC Hermann Trophy) in 2019 after leading the nation in goals (18), total points (45), goals per game (0.95), penalty kick conversion rate (1.000), points per game (2.37), shots per game (4.74) and shots on goal per game (2.16) as a junior.

* Clemson's first No. 1 overall draft pick in men's soccer to Major League Soccer's Inter Miami in 2020.

* Coming off of an injury-plagued sophomore year, Robinson also was named first-team All-America, ACC offensive player of the year and first-team All-ACC.

TigerNet staff vote: 100% Beer.

Case for Etienne

Played: 2017-current

* Clemson’s all-time rushing leader after tallying 4,038 yards and 56 touchdowns rushing (ACC-record) over 43 games as a Tiger so far. His 60 total touchdowns are also an ACC career-best (stat excludes passing TDs). Etienne’s career 7.8 yards per carry is almost two full yards better than the next-best in school history (Tavien Feaster, 5.99). 

* Earned All-American honors each of the last two seasons, as well as ACC Player of the Year. 

* He has Clemson’s single-season bests in rushing yards (1,658), yards per carry (8.1), total touchdowns (26) and points scored (156).

Case for Heffernan

Played: 1985-88

* First-team All-American in the 1988 season after hitting .337 with 47 RBIs, 18 doubles, 62 walks, 21 stolen bases and 93 runs scored.

* Clemson's single-season leader in runs (93 in 1988) and a career leader in runs (285) and walks (207) and third-best in hits (335). 

* The former Tigers catcher still has at least a share of Clemson single-game bests in hits (6) and doubles (3).

TigerNet staff vote: 100% Etienne.

Case for Spiller

Played: 2006-09

* Became the third unanimous All-American in Clemson history, as a kick returner, in 2009 as he tied for the national lead in return touchdowns (4) with a 33.1 yards per average. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting, which tied for a Clemson-best at the time. 

* Earned Clemson’s first ACC Player of the Year honor since Michael Dean Perry as a senior -- a first Clemson ACC offensive player of the year since 1978 and quarterback Steve Fuller. Left school as the ACC’s all-purpose yards leader (7,588; second in NCAA history then) in an exclusive club with only former Heisman winner Reggie Bush with at least 3,000 rushing yards (3,547), 1,500 kickoff return yards (2,052), 1,000 receiving yards (1,420) and 500 punt return yards (569). 

* Three-time track All-American as a sprinter also before a 9th overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft (Buffalo Bills). 

Case for Wise

Played: 1975

* Earned first-team All-ACC and All-ACC Tourney honors as a freshman while averaging a team-best 18.5 points per game.

* Holds the Clemson freshman bests in single-game scoring (38 points), 20-point games (12), field goals made (188), free throws made (86), points (462) and scoring average.

* Holds the Littlejohn Coliseum record for made field goals in a game (17).

TigerNet staff vote: 100% Spiller.

Case for Monahan

Played: 1993-95

* Two-time All-American, who hit for one of five cycles in Clemson history in the 1994 season.

* His .394 career average ranks third-best in Clemson history, he leads in triples (21) and ranks second in total bases (535). 

* He posted the most Clemson hits (137), runs (97) and multi-hit games (46) in the 1994 season.

Case for Beasley

Played: 2011-14

* Two-time first-team All-American before a top-10 NFL draft selection (No. 8 to Atlanta).

* Clemson's all-time sack leader with 33.

* Had at least on sack in eight consecutive games from 2013-14 and 15-straight games with a tackle for loss to close his Tigers career.

TigerNet staff vote: 60% Beasley.

Case for Simmons

Played: 1995-97

* Simmons left school joining fellow Clemson product William Perry as one of two ACC players to be named an AP All-American for three-straight seasons (first-team and then consensus first-team as a sophomore and junior respectively). He was a first Clemson defender to earn AP All-America honors since Terry Kinard in 1982.  

* Simmons was only the second Clemson player to earn a national award with his Freshman of the Year designation from the UPI in 1995, where he posted 150 tackles (11 for loss) with 3.5 sacks and three pass breakups. 

* Selected with the 15th overall pick of the 1998 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks, Simmons left as a junior ranked second in school history with 486 tackles.

Case for Zatezalo

Played: 1967-70

* Three-time All-ACC selection who led the ACC twice in scoring (23 PPG in 1967-68; 25.8 in 1968-69).

* Best in Clemson history in career scoring average (23.48) with double-figure scoring in a school-best 93.3 percent of his games, ranking first also in 20-point games (52), 30-point games (16) and 40-point games (2). Holds the Tigers' marks in free throws made in a season (189) and career (501).

* His 46-point game at Wake Forest in 1969 is still the school's best both away from home and in ACC play. He also holds the Clemson mark for single-game points at a neutral site (43 vs. NC State in Charlotte in 1970).

TigerNet staff vote: 100% Simmons.

Case for Davis

Played: 1978-81

* Captained and led Clemson’s first national championship team in tackles (175), earning ACC MVP and Orange Bowl defensive MVP honors during the 1981 season.

* First Clemson linebacker to earn consensus All-American honors (1981).

* College Football Hall of Fame and Clemson Ring of Honor member, ranking third in school history in tackles (469) and holding the school single-game record for stops (24 v. UNC in 1980) and career marks in both caused (10) and recovered fumbles (8).

Case for Cone

Played: 1948-50

* Clemson Ring of Honor member who was the first Clemson player to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in his career (2,183).

* Eighth in school history still in touchdowns (31).

* Starter on two undefeated Clemson teams (1948, 1950).

TigerNet staff vote: 80% Davis.

State your case for the matchups and more in the comments.

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