Christian Wilkins: You come to Clemson to be great and win championships
|Thursday, December 1, 2016, 3:41 PM- -|
CLEMSON – Christian Wilkins didn’t come to Clemson to be an average football player, and he didn’t become a Tiger so he could play in the desultory bowl games required of 6-6 teams.
He came to Clemson to be great, and he came to win championships.
The sophomore defensive lineman and his teammates get a crack at the championship part of the equation when they take on Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.
Wilkins is happy to get a second crack at an ACC Championship in his two years on campus.
“It's big. There is a reason you come here to Clemson to play football. You come here to be great and accomplish a lot of things and to be in two ACC Championship games,” Wilkins said. “That's really big. I hope I get to get a few more before I leave, too. That's still such a great accomplishment and something to be happy about and something to live in the moment about. It's big and it's not easy winning a lot of football games and to get to an ACC Championship one year, let alone two years in a row, so that's a big accomplishment for us. We should all be happy and excited and give it all we got this week, so we can win this one and keep going forward."
Wilkins has played in 27 games at Clemson and lost just two of them, the latest a setback against Pitt earlier this month, and he said losing helps keep a group of players used to winning grounded.
“Yeah, that's the thing - losing a couple of games keeps me grounded and I'm sure a lot of the young guys that are here too, all they know is winning,” he said. “We have to go out there, be us, do our job and play our game, we'll be just fine and pressure-free. This year, I feel like I'm more prepared for it because I've experienced it and a lot of guys have experienced that. We know what it's going to have to take and we know what we can do. It's good we've been through it already. The biggest challenge is just being us and bringing it every day and staying focused and cutting out distractions.
“Obviously, there is a lot that goes on with media and everything, and we have to focus on ourselves. That's just the world we live in. It's tough to completely cut all of that out, but limit it. Don't watch as many things on TV and don't look for certain stuff. It was big. Being here for two years, I knew what this rivalry means to a lot of people. So, it was big to get one of the biggest wins ever in the rivalry's history. It was a lot of fun and it was great for the seniors to go out the way they did. I'm happy for those guys. It was a little bit of a wake-up call and we used it as fuel really. We used it as a stepping stone and didn't let it knock us down.”
He then added it’s the time of the year when the players know they have to reach deep for a little extra because they don’t want to experience the pain of losing another title game.
“We knew we would have to take it one day at a time. You know we want to get back to that game so bad and you wish you could do things over again, but you really just got to focus on each day,” Wilkins said. “One of our big things this off season was really just giving it that little extra. We have to give it that little extra one day at a time and we'll be fine. Last year, we didn't have as many guys with experience on defense, so we had to play a lot of the older guys and didn't have as much of a rotation or depth that we would have liked. But, this year we have more guys that we could throw out there - play or rotate or do a lot of different things with. I feel better at this point than I did last year personally, so it's just big that there are guys ready to step up this year and contribute a lot more. It's different. Last year, everything was all new to me and it was happening so fast.”