A painfully sweet ending

Between a few short, painful breaths, Sammy Watkins agreed to answer a few more questions from reporters inside the winning locker room at the Orange Bowl.

Daniel Rodriguez offered to serve as a spokesman.

Watkins opted to speak for himself.

Fellow 2011 signee Robert Smith wanted a picture with his teammate.

Watkins smiled through the pain.

The look returned as Smith made his way to the exit. Even Superman gets banged up every once in a while.

"My whole body hurts right now," Watkins said.

He took a shot to the ribs on one of the final plays of the game. There was also the late third quarter scare with his knee.

"My cleats got stuck in the ground. The cornerback went inside and they shot back out," Watkins said. "Hot Rod [McDowell] didn't even get the ball, but I [didn't] know that, and my cleat got stuck. I just basically fell. I thought I almost tore it, but I'm definitely fine."

Not a good feeling for any football play, especially one who's probably going to be one of the first players picked later this year in the NFL Draft.

"I was definitely shocked, but it didn't tear or anything," Watkins said. "I could definitely finish the game."

Among other things, Watkins is a gamer.

"Just making a statement for the Clemson Tigers, coming to the Orange Bowl was definitely an honor again, getting the opportunity," he said. "I love the game. I play hard every game, wish to do my best, but tonight was a special night for Clemson and the offense."

It was a special night for Watkins, who caught 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns.

Not that it was really up for debate, but Watkins will go down as the best wide receiver in Clemson history. He owns the school's all-time records for catches, yards and is tied for first with touchdown receptions.

For the season, he finished with 101 catches for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns.

"Overall, I just give all the glory to the coaches, the weight training that we got, they were on me this offseason, to get me prepared for this long season," Watkins said. "This whole season, I didn't really have any injuries, just because I took care of my body and did the right things. The coaches definitely, by far, coached me the hardest on every detail, every situation.

"They let me know that the power of preparation is what you need in this game of football. I took my body and everything I did seriously. This team helped me out in the course of my season here, my growth and maturity level that I have, just knowing the best players have to work hard and do the right things."

What a way to limp off into the sunset.

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