Clemson’s Christian Wilkins Awarded NFF’s
29th William V. Campbell Trophy®
All-America defensive lineman becomes first Tiger to win college football’s premier scholar-athlete award, receives $25,000 postgraduate scholarship.
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NEW YORK (Dec. 4, 2018) – Clemson University defensive lineman Christian Wilkins has been named the 29th recipient of The William V. Campbell Trophy® at the 61st National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner in New York City tonight.
“Christian Wilkins’ exceptional accomplishments on and off the field rank him among the best student-athletes in the history of our sport, making him the ideal Campbell Trophy® recipient,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “He truly embodies the scholar-athlete ideal and we are proud to have him as a member of this elite fraternity. He stands as the perfect example for the next generation to emulate.”
The Campbell Trophy® ranks as one of college football’s most sought after and competitive awards, recognizing an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. The award, which is prominently displayed at its official home inside the New York Athletic Club, comes with a 24-inch, 25-pound bronze trophy and a $25,000 postgraduate scholarship.
A total of $241,000 was awarded tonight to Wilkins and the 12 other members of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, who comprised the list of Campbell Trophy® finalists. Each member of the class claimed an $18,000 scholarship for their postgraduate educations. Fidelity Investments is a proud partner of the Campbell Trophy® and the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards.
“Christian and his fellow members of the 2018 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class represent more than just their standout athletic ability seen on the field,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning, whose sons, Peyton (Campbell Trophy® winner) and Eli, were NFF National Scholar-Athletes in 1997 and 2003, respectively. “Their academic achievements and their contributions as leaders in the community send a powerful message about the young men who play our sport. They have taken full advantage of the educational opportunities created by college football, and they have created a compelling legacy for others to follow.”
Wilkins personifies the scholar-athlete ideal, having already earned his degree while twice claiming First Team All-America honors and guiding Clemson to a national championship.
After graduating in December 2017 with a 3.33 GPA in communication studies, Wilkins became the first scholarship player in Clemson football history to finish school in two and a half years. He will graduate this December with a master’s in athletic leadership. In addition to being a three-time All-ACC Academic Team member, Wilkins has twice received First Team Academic All-District honors. He was named the ACC’s 2018 Jim Tatum Award recipient as the top senior student-athlete among the conference’s football players.
A two-year team captain, Wilkins has guided Clemson to the No. 2 ranking, a perfect 13-0 record, the 2018 ACC title and a trip to the College Football Playoff Semifinal. A finalist for the 2018 Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Outland Trophy, he has amassed 45 tackles on the season, including 13.5 tackles for loss. The 2018 First Team All-ACC defensive lineman is also a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy and has five sacks, one forced fumble, and two fumble recovery to his name this year. Wilkins was the runner-up for both the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year for 2018.
Wilkins leads a Clemson unit that tops the ACC and is tied for second in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to just 13.7 points per game. Clemson’s rushing defense is also atop the ACC, limiting opposing teams to 93 yards per game on the ground, which is the third best average in the nation. The Tigers rank second in the ACC and fourth in the nation in total defense, limiting offenses to 276.8 yards per game.
On Oct. 27, Wilkins recorded the first rushing touchdown of his career on a one-yard run against Florida State. He would add another rushing touchdown in the regular season finale against in-state rival South Carolina. Following a 27-7 win at Boston College on Nov. 10, Wilkins was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week after playing a key role as the Tigers secured their fourth straight ACC Atlantic Division title. He posted five tackles in the game, including one for loss, as part of a defensive line that limited Boston College to only nine rushing yards. On Nov. 17, he broke the school record for career starts by a defensive tackle.
A three-year letterman, Wilkins made an immediate impact at Clemson, earning 2015 First Team Freshman All-America honors. A three-time All-ACC selection, he earned first-team honors in 2018 and 2017 while claiming second team laurels in 2016. A finalist for the 2016 Nagurski Trophy, Wilkins was named the 2017 Willis Award recipient as the National Defensive Lineman of the Year by the Columbus (Ohio) Touchdown Club. Wilkins guided the Tigers to the 2016 College Football Playoff (CFP) national title, two CFP National Championship game appearances and now four consecutive trips to the CFP Semifinals. In addition to winning four consecutive ACC titles, Wilkins helped Clemson finish with No. 2 (2015), No.1 (2016) and No. 4 (2017) rankings.
Making a difference off the field, Wilkins became a certified substitute teacher during the 2018 offseason, indicating that he wanted to provide inspiration and guidance to K-12 students. An avid volunteer, Wilkins has worked with Habitat for Humanity, the Clemson Miracle Fundraiser, Colleges Against Cancer Relay for Life and the “Kicks, Cleats, Kids” initiative. He has also taken part in the Taylor Elementary Visionary Leaders program.
Following tonight’s Annual Awards Dinner, Wilkins will be recognized as the Campbell Trophy® winner at several prestigious events. On Wednesday, the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) will host a luncheon in his honor. From there, he will head directly to Atlanta for ESPN’s “The Home Depot College Football Awards” at the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday, where he will be interviewed live during the show. Finally, he will venture to Santa Clara, California, to be honored on the field during the College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 7.
Wilkins becomes Clemson’s first Campbell Trophy® winner and the school’s fourth NFF National Scholar-Athlete, joining Jimmy Bell (1964), Steve Fuller (1978) and Kyle Young (2001). He becomes the fifth Campbell Trophy® recipient from a team currently in the ACC, joining Thomas Burns (Virginia – 1993), Joaquin Gonzalez (Miami [Fla.] – 2001), David Helton (Duke – 2014) and Micah Kiser (Virginia – 2017).
Launched in 1959 and celebrating its 60th year in 2018, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete program became the first initiative in history to award postgraduate scholarships based on a player’s combined academic, athletic and community accomplishments, and the program has awarded $11.5 million to 854 top athletes since its inception. Candidates must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player or significant contributor, and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.
The centerpiece to the NFF’s scholar-athlete program, The William V. Campbell Trophy® was first awarded in 1990. It is named in honor of the late Bill Campbell, the former chairman of Intuit, former player and head coach at Columbia University and the 2004 recipient of the NFF’s Gold Medal.
Past Recipients of The William V. Campbell Trophy®
• Chris Howard (Air Force, 1990 – University President)
• Brad Culpepper (Florida, 1991 – Attorney)
• Jim Hansen (Colorado, 1992 – Leader in Climatology Research)
• Thomas Burns (Virginia, 1993 – Engineering Executive)
• Robert Zatechka (Nebraska, 1994 – Physician)
• Bobby Hoying (Ohio State, 1995 – Real Estate Executive)
• Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1996 – Non-Profit Executive Director)
• Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997 – Retired NFL Player & Philanthropist)
• Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia, 1998 – Insurance Executive & TV Broadcaster)
• Chad Pennington (Marshall, 1999 – Non-Profit President/High School Football Coach)
• Kyle Vanden Bosch (Nebraska, 2000 – Retired NFL Player)
• Joaquin Gonzalez (Miami [Fla.], 2001 – Corporate Executive)
• Brandon Roberts (Washington University in St. Louis [Mo.], 2002 – Physician)
• Craig Krenzel (Ohio State, 2003 – Insurance Executive)
• Michael Munoz (Tennessee, 2004 – Football Executive)
• Rudy Niswanger (LSU, 2005 – Corporate Executive)
• Brian Leonard (Rutgers, 2006 – Retired NFL Player & Philanthropist)
• Dallas Griffin (Texas, 2007 – Corporate Executive)
• Alex Mack (California, 2008 – NFL Player)
• Tim Tebow (Florida, 2009 – Non-Profit Chairman, TV Broadcaster & Baseball Player)
• Sam Acho (Texas, 2010 – NFL Player)
• Andrew Rodriguez (Army West Point, 2011 – U.S. Army Captain)
• Barrett Jones (Alabama, 2012 – Financial Advisor & Broadcaster)
• John Urschel (Penn State, 2013 – Ph.D. Candidate)
• David Helton (Duke, 2014 – Financial Advisor)
• Ty Darlington (Oklahoma, 2015 – College Football Assistant Coach)
• Zach Terrell (Western Michigan, 2016 – Executive Development Associate)
• Micah Kiser (Virginia, 2017 – NFL Player)
The 2018 NFF Campbell Trophy® Finalists
SCHOLAR-ATHLETE POSITION SCHOOL GPA MAJOR
Kenneth Brinson LB Army West Point 3.96 Chemical Engineering
Taryn Christion QB South Dakota State 3.61 Business Economics
De’Arius Christmas LB Grambling State 3.82 Engineering Technology
D’Cota Dixon S Wisconsin 3.32 Rehabilitation Psychology
Ryan Finley QB North Carolina State 3.76 Psychology
Piercen Harnish LB Saint Francis (Ind.) 3.96 Finance
Trace McSorley QB Penn State 3.31 Accounting
Dalton Risner OL Kansas State 3.60 Communication Studies
Max Scharping OL Northern Illinois 3.99 Kinesiology
Eric Stevenson LB Wheaton (Ill.) 3.83 Economics
Easton Stick QB North Dakota State 3.92 Sport Management
Drue Tranquill LB Notre Dame 3.73 Mechanical Engineering
Christian Wilkins DL Clemson 3.33 Communication Studies