Sammy for Heisman?

by - Senior Writer -
Watkins showed his return skills with an 89-yarder at Maryland earlier this season

CLEMSON – Sammy for Heisman? He thinks so.

Freshman wide receiver Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
Fr. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 200
Fort Myers, FL

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left Saturday’s practice with a huge smile on his face, and with good reason. The Fort Myers native has garnered just about every award a receiver can earn since the season ended, and he mentioned Saturday that his family is going to have to build a new shelf for all of the hardware he has accumulated since the end of the season.

Those awards include being named National Freshman of the Year by The Sporting News, and College Football News, and an All-American by the Associated Press and Pro Football Weekly, as well as a freshman All-American by CBS Sports, Sporting News, and College Football News.

Clemson Sports Information Director Tim Bourret said Saturday that he still needs to check with a few more of his peers across the country, but Watkins is believed to be only the third true freshman to be named an Associated Press first-team All-American, joining Georgia’s Herschel Walker and Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson.

Saturday, Don Munson [the Director of Creative Media Services] was lugging the Banks McFadden Trophy off the field for the freshman, who was presented the award at the practice by the Greenville Touchdown Club for being the Offensive Player of the Year in the state of South Carolina.

Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said that Watkins took some good-natured ribbing from his teammates about the huge trophy.

“Sammy’s not a man of many words, but he just smiled,” Swinney said. “He had to be harassed by his teammates. That comes with it when someone comes and brings an award to you at practice.”

Following the practice, Watkins told the media that he thinks he should shoot for even bigger things in 2012.

“It just pushes me to go for even more awards. I’d like to go for the Heisman next year – that’s my goal,” Watkins said Saturday. “And win the ACC again next year, accomplish more things. Most definitely, that’s what I’m shooting for.”

Watkins already has the best season ever for a Clemson receiver, and he still has a game to play. He has 77 receptions for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns, all ACC freshman records. Those totals lead all FBS freshmen nationally. He has also set single-season Clemson records for receptions and receiving yardage, and can break Rod Gardner’s single-season touchdown record with a score in the Orange Bowl.

He said that he would like to see more time in the return game, especially punt returns, in order to help his team and bolster his chances for college football’s most prestigious award.

“I just have to do the same things [as this season], but work harder,” he said. “And maybe get back there and return a couple of punts. If I can do that, I might get it. This year I didn’t want to really do punt return, because I just wanted to get in there and learn.”

Watkins did have an electric 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Maryland, but was slowed in the latter part of the season by a shoulder injury that he said Saturday still wasn’t 100 percent.

His head coach said that a healthy Watkins is a dangerous weapon in the return game, and Clemson fans might see him in the return game at the Orange Bowl.

“He’s a great return guy,” Swinney said, “and he hasn’t been able to return punts the last couple weeks, just being banged up and not healthy here at practice. But he’s back at it and we expect him to help us out in that area, too.”

Only two receivers have won the Heisman in its 76-year history - Notre Dame’s Tim Brown in 1987 and Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991.

Swinney said Watkins is in control of whether he is a part of the conversation in 2012, but also needs to understand that if he is helping his team win games, the other stuff will take care of itself.

“I think he’s got control of that campaign. It’s how he goes and plays,” Swinney said. “Hopefully he’ll have the same type of impact next year. If he does, he’ll be up for whatever awards they give, if he continues to play like he’s played and stays focused like that.”

The campaign might as well kick off on the national stage in the Orange Bowl – the only game being played that night – and in front of Watkins’ family and friends.

“I will have about 20 or 30 people there in the stands watching me,” Watkins said. “It will be a great thing and my family will be there.”

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