Note: The following appears in the August 2019 issue of Orange: The Experience.
Christian Wilkins, Sam Staab and Austin Bryant have all won department-wide annual awards presented by Clemson athletics. Wilkins is the recipient of the Frank Howard Award, Staab the recipient of the IPTAY Athlete of the Year and Bryant the recipient of the BrandonStreeter Award.
The awards will be presented at some point during the coming football season at a home game to be announced.
The Frank Howard Award recognizes an athlete for “Bringing Honor to Clemson.” This season Wilkins won the Campbell Award, the “Academic Heisman” as presented by the National Football Foundation. The native of Springfield, Mass. was honored at the National Football Foundation banquet in New York last December. The award is presented to one college football player who is recognized for his achievement on the gridiron, in the classroom and in terms of service to the community.
Clemson had a 55-4 record in Wilkins’s four years and helped the Tigers to two National Championships and four CFP appearances as a starting defensive lineman. He earned first-team All-America honors from at least one of the five major services recognized by the NCAA in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He is the first three-time All-American recognized by at least one of the five selectors in Clemson history.
A unanimous first-team All-American as a senior, Wilkins was also a finalist for the Nagurski Award and the Lott Trophy. He was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-round draft selection of the Miami Dolphins in 2019.
In winning the IPTAY Student-Athlete of the Year, Staab was an All-American on the field and in the classroom, just the second women’s soccer player to do both in the same year. The native of San Diego, Calif. was a second-team All-American by the Women’s Coaches Association on the field and was named an American Scholar by the Soccer Coaches Association in the classroom.
Staab was a dynamic defensive player who was a big reason Clemson reached the NCAA Tournament with 0.9 goals against average. She was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and also contributed on offense as she finished the 2018 season with 11 assists, contributing to her 33 over her 80 games as a starter over her four years.
At the conclusion of the season, Staab was the number-four selection in the Women’s Pro League Soccer Draft, the highest selection ever by a Clemson women’s soccer athlete.
In an era when college football players are looking for excuses to not play in bowl games or late season regular season contests so they can prepare for the draft, it is refreshing to hear the story of Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant. Bryant is this year’s recipient of the Brandon Streeter Award, which is given to the athlete who overcomes injury to become a very key player for the team.
Bryant played the last seven games of the 2018 season with shoulder injury. This could have ended his season so he could be ready for the NFL Combine, but he declined season ending surgery to play so he could help the Tigers toNational Championship.
Despite the injury, Bryant continued to play at a high level. He was named the Defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl victory over Notre Dame when Clemson held the Irish to just three points, fewest in their history in a bowl game. Despite the injuries, Bryant finished the year with 8.5 sacks to rank second on the team and was a third-team All-ACC selection.