CLEMSON — Ultimately, Mom knew best for Clemson junior defensive tackle Josh Watson and his future as a Tiger.
The Delaware native, who will turn 24 in a couple months, talked to Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney before the season about finishing out his career with this December’s graduation. Last week on Facebook, he announced last Saturday’s game would be his final run down The Hill.
Watson committed to returning for senior year
After a year of prep school and four years in TigerTown, Watson was tired, and not feeling quite right anyway — scheduled to go in for back surgery in the offseason. He led all Tiger d-linemen with 54 tackles last season, but hadn’t totaled more than five in game this season.
“It’s just a beating on the body,” said Watson. “Right after the season, we’re right back at it after the bowl game. I didn’t have a chance to go home throughout my college career because I lived so far away.
“I was overworked and burned it on both ends. It’s important to take a lot of rest when you can and I wasn’t doing that. My body was suffering the consequences and mentally as well.”
But the move didn’t come without discussing his future with a cavalcade of Clemson coaches, former Tiger great and current assistant AD Jeff Davis, and of course, his Mom.
“She kind of kicked my butt in the right direction,” he said. The conversation with Davis sealed the senior-season comeback.
“I had to meet with all of the coaching staff because they weren’t going to let me go that easily,” Watson said. “Met with seven of them in a week span, but what really changed my mind was Jeff Davis. He’s a guy that really cares about us on a personal level whether I was going to stay or leave. He just asked me what my plan was.
“I had dreams to play football since I put the pads on and help my family out. Some people never get a chance to accomplish that plan. Some people never can accomplish a dream and if I stay I’m one year closer to that. So why not stay?”
His mind was made up by Thursday last week, but he didn’t announce it until after the game Saturday. It made for some awkward moments.
“It’s funny because coach (Brent Venables) was telling me he was proud to have me and he’ll miss me (on the sidelines),” Watson said, “and I told him, ‘Coach, I’m staying.’ He said he had some hairs on the back of his neck stand up and he was going to cry. That felt good to hear that.”
The scheduled postseason surgery will keep him out of commission for at least two months.
“I don’t think I have to do All-In drills so that’s always a good thing,” Watson said with a smile.
WATKINS NAMED BILETNIKOFF FINALIST
Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s top wide receiver.
The South Fort Myers (Fla.) product hopes to hear his name called at Dec. 12’s Home Depot College Football Awards (7 p.m. on ESPN), alongside fellow finalists Mike Evans of Texas A&M and Brandin Cooks of Oregon State.
Watkins leads the ACC with 1,144 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, breaking a Clemson record with seven 100-yard games. He became the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards Saturday (3,071).
Clemson senior linebacker Quandon Christian (ankle) had a walking boot on as he strolled in for interviews in the WestZone Monday. He says his ankle is sore, but he will be ready to practice by midweek and play Saturday.
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said running back Zac Brooks (shoulder) will dress out Saturday, but there’s no guarantees on playing time. Brooks will need offseason surgery and hadn’t played much recently until he reinjured the shoulder last week against The Citadel.