Clemson football: Five best NFL careers by former Tigers


Clemson football has been no stranger to NFL draft picks over the history of the program. Since 1939, the Tigers have had 259 selections by professional teams and will add several more this year.

When looking at the past 259 selections, who has had the better professional careers? What metric matters the most – longevity, starts, statistics? A combination of all of those is what we used to determine the Top 5 Tigers with the best NFL career.

Keep in mind, players that have been taken in the last five years aren’t going to be on this list. They have not been around long enough. If we were to redo this list in a decade, guys like Grady Jarrett and Deshaun Watson will more than likely make it then, but they aren’t on it today.

After exhaustive comparing and research, here are the five Tigers that have had the best NFL careers.

5. Charlie Waters

Waters was an All-ACC receiver while also playing quarterback during his Tiger career. However, he would move to defense for his 12 year NFL career.

He was selected in the third round of the 1970 draft by the Dallas Cowboys, who would be selected to the NFL All-Rookie team and help lead the Cowboys to their first two Super Bowl wins during his time in Dallas.

Charlie Waters was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time All-Pro selection as a safety. He has been inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame, the North Augusta Hall of Fame and the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame.

4. William “The Refrigerator” Perry

The Fridge may be the most iconic player in Clemson football history and not because of anything he accomplished in a Tiger uniform. The 1985 Bears solidified his status among the football community. Whether you are a Clemson fan or not, when someone says “The Fridge” in a football context, everyone knows exactly who they are talking about.

His short-yardage touchdown against the Patriots in the Super Bowl is Mike Dikta’s biggest regret as they would never get back and Walter Payton would never score a rushing touchdown in the game.

The Fridge would spend a decade in the NFL with the Bears and Eagles and left the game in 1994. He played 138 NFL games during that time, ended his career with 29.5 sacks and scored three touchdowns. He would also be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.

3. DeAndre Hopkins

The only current player on this list. Why is he the exception? He is the only Tiger currently in the NFL that is considered to be Top 2 at his position and he is the only consensus among whom you ask in regards to being the best receiver in the league. Answers are either Julio Jones and Nuk or Michael Thomas and Nuk.

In his first seven NFL seasons, Hopkins has accumulated more than 8,600 yards and 54 touchdowns receiving. He finished the 2018 NFL season with 115 catches and zero drops. He and Julio Jones are the only two current NFL receivers to have six straight seasons with at least 76 catches and 900 yards, both will carry that into the 2020 season.

Hopkins is on pace to be among the NFL greats at his position and well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

2. Levon Kirkland

One of the two best defensive players to ever play for Clemson football. The 1991 Consensus All-American left Clemson after his junior year and was a second-round pick of the Steelers in 1992.

During his NFL career, he was a two time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time All-Pro selection, two time Steelers MVP and part of the 1990s NFL All-Decade team. He was named to the Clemson Hall of Fame in 2001 and was added to the Ring of Honor in 2019.

1. Brian Dawkins

This should come as no surprise. He is the only Clemson football product in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dawkins spent three seasons in Clemson where he was an All ACC selection in 1995 as well as a second-team All American. He was the 61st pick in the 1996 NFL draft and spent 13 seasons with the Eagles before spending his last three seasons with the Broncos.

He was selected to the Clemson Hall of Fame in 2009 and also has the Brian Dawkins Lifetime Achievement Award to annually honor a former Clemson player for their performance on the field, contributions in leadership and community service.

dark. Next. Will 2020 offense be the best in school history?

We are still waiting for him to be added to the Clemson Ring of Honor and to have a statue of him added to Death Valley.