Clemson University Tigers
Fort Myers, Florida
South Fort Myers High School
Ever since Watkins burst onto the national stage as one of the top receivers in the nation as a freshman, he has done everything he could to prove that he is truly one of the more elite prospects that the school has ever developed. His marks are littered throughout the Clemson record books, as he also etched his name in stone where Atlantic Coast Conference records are concerned.
In just 29 starting assignments for the Tigers, the versatile athlete became one of only two players in school history to generate over 5,000 all-purpose yards (5,129) and also with 3,000 yards receiving (3,391). He is one of just three players to wear a Clemson uniform to have at least 20 touchdown receptions, along with pulling in over 200 passes. He is also the only player in school annals to catch a pass for a touchdown, carry the ball for a score, return a kick for a touchdown and throw a pass for a score.
Watkins joined Rod Gardner as the only Clemson players to record multiple 1,000-yard seasons receiving. Since the school began playing organized football in 1896, there have been only seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He is also the only player in school annals to register at least 10 touchdown receptions in multiple seasons.
Just three other Tigers have ever recorded at least 10 touchdown catches in a campaign.
Watkins closed his career as the school's all-time leader with 240 receptions, the second-best total in Atlantic Coast Conference annals. He also established the Tigers record with 3,391 yards receiving, third-best in ACC history. His 27 touchdown catches tied the school career-record and also tied for eighth on the conference all-time record chart. His 5,129 all-purpose yards placed second on Clemson's record list and he is fifth all-time with 1,376 kickoff return yards.
Before he became a Clemson Tiger, Watkins attended South Fort Myers High School, where he set the Lee County records with 133 catches for 2,997 yards and 36 touchdowns, along with averaging 11.8 yards per rushing attempt during his career. As a sophomore receiver, he had 33 receptions for 537 yards and 10 scores. He gained national attention as a junior, as he recorded 46 catches for 1,192 yards (25.9 ypc) and 14 touchdowns. He was named Class 3A first-team All-State and Offensive Player of the Year by the Naples News, adding All-Area accolades by the News-Press.
During his senior campaign, Watkins helped South Fort Myers reach the AAA state semifinals with 54 catches for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns, capturing Offensive Player of the Year honors from the News-Press and Player of the Year by the Naples Daily News, in addition to earning All-State classification. He registered eight 100-yard receiving games and ran the "Wildcat" in a state playoff game, when he gained 133 yards on just six carries and scored three touchdowns while throwing a touchdown pass. During his final season, he added scores on two kickoff returns, two punt returns, and three interception returns.
Scout.com ranked him 41st overall and fifth among the prep receivers, and he concluded his prep career by playing in the U.S. Army All-American game. In track, Watkins won the AA state title in the 200 meters and finished second in the 100 as a senior. He also placed fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200 at the state meet as a junior.
Watkins was a highly touted recruit before the 2011 college football season. He committed to Clemson in November 2010, as he turned down scholarship offers from Florida State, Florida and Miami but decided to go to a school outside Florida. The Gators had hoped to reunite Watkins with his brother, Jaylen, who had signed with Florida in 2010 and is a member of the 2014 NFL Draft class as a free safety.
Despite not taking part in spring practice, Watkins made an immediate impact for Clemson in his freshman season in 2011. He set Atlantic Coast Conference freshman season-records with 82 receptions for 1,219 yards, adding 12 touchdowns in his first season as a Tigers. That total included 10 catches, 155 yards and two touchdowns vs. defending national champions Auburn. He also placed second on the school season-record charts with 12 touchdown receptions and 2,288 all-purpose yards.
During the 2011 campaign, Watkins broke 11 school freshman records by the time he had reached just the seventh game on the schedule, including the all-purpose yards mark that was previously held by C. J. Spiller. He was also an Associated Press first-team All-American, becoming only the fourth ever true freshman to do so, joining Herschel Walker, Marshall Faulk and Adrian Peterson.
Watkins' season did not begin until the third game on the 2012 schedule after he was suspended for the first two contests due to a team rules violation, stemming from a May off-field incident. He also missed the Boston College game with an abdominal virus and suffered a lower leg contusion in the first half of the Maryland clash and did not return.
He finished second on the team with 57 receptions for 708 yards and three touchdowns, scoring again on 14 carries while averaging 19.77 yards on 13 kickoff returns en route to amassing 1,073 all-purpose yards.
One of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, the 2013 All-American bounced back from his subpar 2012 campaign to set the school and Atlantic Coast Conference season-record with 101 receptions, placing second in the league list and first for the Tigers with 1,464 yards receiving. He also had 12 scoring grabs, averaged 20.93 yards per kickoff return and produced the sixth-best total in Clemson annals with 1,768 all-purpose yards.
On Jan. 7, 2014, Watkins announced that he had played his final college game and had filed for early entry into the 2014 NFL Draft. "After much prayerful consideration, I have decided to take the next step in pursuing my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL," Watkins said in a statement released by Clemson. He closes out his career having set 23 school records in three seasons. He finished his career as the most outstanding player of the Orange Bowl in which he caught 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson's 40-35 win vs. seventh-ranked Ohio State.
"I would not have this opportunity without the support and encouragement of my family, coaches, teammates, and the best fans in college football. No matter where my next steps may lead, I will always take pride" in Clemson, Watkins said.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney told The Associated Press that Watkins has shown what can be accomplished when you combine talent and work ethic. "We have won 32 games, the ACC and the Orange Bowl since he arrived," Swinney said. "Pretty obvious the impact he has had." Clemson will also be without receiver Martavis Bryant and cornerback Baushad Breeland, both who announced they'd given up their final seasons for the NFL draft.
Watkins finished his career with 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. The reception total and yardage total are Clemson records and the touchdown total tied former teammate DeAndre Hopkins (2010-12)…Had 48 receptions for 20 yards or longer, as he tallied 339 yards with one touchdown on 52 carries (6.52 ypc) with nine runs for at least 10 yards, including five for 20 yards or longer…Completed 2-of-5 passes for 61 yards, a touchdown and an interception…Added 1,376 yards on 60 kickoff returns (22.93 avg) and 23 yards on six punt returns…Registered 5,129 all-purpose yards, an average of 142.47 yards per game.