The Clemson Tigers’ have been loaded with talent for the last few years, especially on the defensive line.
Case in point: the Tigers had five players from their defensive line participating at the 2019 NFL Combine, including the likes of Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell. The Tigers combined to sack the quarterback 54 times this past season, which was the most in college football.
“It was huge because obviously we push each other to a level that I can’t really explain in words,” Ferrell said while speaking at the NFL Combine. “It was truly a blessing to go through it with those guys because there’s some things we did off the field that really prepared us and made us better as far as our careers.
"If you want to have an impact, you gotta scratch and claw with my brothers out there. So it was really, really good. We made it a competition for sure.”
Having that amount of talent in one position group helped Clemson get the title of the greatest defensive line in college football history from many analysts. Ferrell and his teammates heard those claims, and while Ferrell will now admit that he does believe that to be true, he had to ignore the noise and focus on playing.
Ferrell spent four years at Clemson University, where he was a starter for three. Ferrell burst onto the scene in 2016, his redshirt freshman season, getting six sacks on 12 and a half tackles for loss en route to Clemson’s first national championship since 1981. In 2017, Ferrell would be named first-team All-ACC after registering 9 and a half sacks on 18 tackles for loss. Ferrell decided to return for his redshirt junior season, and it was a decision that would pay off. Ferrell was once again named first-team All-ACC, and he would also win the ACC defensive player of the year award. Ferrell racked up 20 tackles for loss, with 11 and a half of them being quarterback sacks, as Clemson won their second national championship in three years.
Due to his high level of play, Ferrell has been widely seen as a consensus first-round pick, with some believing the Redskins will select him.
According to Draft Network’s Joe Marino, “Ferrell's size, hand usage and power combined with his modest burst and flexibility makes him and ideal fit as a 4-3 defensive end. He plays with an unrelenting motor that pairs well with his play strength to make him a dominant run defender and potent pass rusher. He is reliant on technique as a pass rusher and won't be able to win solely based on athletic ability. Given his experience and technical refinement, Ferrell should factor into the rotation early in his career with the upside to become a productive starter by Year 2/3.”
Despite Ferrell’s dominant collegiate career, his name has been overshadowed by other defensive ends and edge rushers in this draft class. Ferrell has used that as a chip on his shoulder in order to become the best player he can be. One step he's taken is to not compare himself to other players. Ferrell believes that if he measures his ability or potential by looking at others, his view of himself will become clouded and he will no longer be able to realize his full potential.
Take a look at photos from Sunday March 3, 2019 at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. Photos from NFL.
One of the biggest inspirations in Ferrell’s life were his parents, who were both Army veterans. Ferrell said that his parents helped teach him the right priorities in life, with getting an education being at the top. Despite forgoing his final year of eligibility in college, Ferrell graduated from Clemson in December, achieving his parents’ goal for him.
Growing up in a military family was something that Ferrell cherishes, and believes it helped guide him on his path through life.
“That was something that was a gift and a curse for me,” Ferrell said. “My mom, she served in Desert Storm. My father was in Vietnam; he passed away when I was 13. And that was really, really big for me because they loved the aspect of just integrity. They always demanded that I did the right things, went about my business the right way and did it in a manner where it was respectful. They were really big on not hanging around the wrong people. They always talked to me about making sure that I keep the right company. So it was just a lot of different things that they drew from the military and brought into my life.”