To me, Albert Huggins is epitome of what the word teammate should represent. In the ever changing landscape of college football, where players are choosing to transfer in record numbers looking for more playing time, Huggins, affectionately known to Tiger fans as "Huggy Bear," chose a different route. A route that sees him riding off into the sunset one of the unsung heroes of Clemson's 2018 CFP playoff run, that ended with their second national title in three years.
A highly touted 4 star DT prospect out of Orangeburg Wilkinson, Huggins committed to the Tigers on Dec 12, 2014 as the number one player in the state of SC, and the 12th best DT in the nation per 247. It was the first time Clemson had landed the consensus number one player in the state since 2008. He was a guy many were predicting to become a fixture along the Defensive Line, some thinking as early as his sophomore year.
Huggins played DE at Orangeburg Wilkinson High, but at 6’ 3” and already pushing 290 lbs, he was projected as a DT on the college level. He wanted a shot to play DE and the Clemson coaching staff gave him that shot, something that possibly helped secure his commitment and helped keep him out of Athens. Huggins was an interior guy however, and he would quickly transition to the inside.
When Christian Wilkins committed about a month after Huggins did, the fan base envisioned the two would anchor the interior of the DL for the following few years. However, that isn’t how it would turn out, as one year later, some kid out of Wake Forest High School in NC, by the name of Dexter Lawrence would burst on the scene. Clemson did in fact have its two interior guys of the future, but it was Wilkins and Lawrence instead of Wilkins and Huggins.
Huggins easily could have made the decision to transfer after his sophomore season, and justifiably so, yet he patiently waited his turn. Most assumed that turn would come in 2018 and that he'd finally get his shot to start with Wilkins departing for the NFL Draft. However, once again, that's not how things ultimately played out.
After the Tigers lost to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Wilkins surprised many by announcing he was coming back for his final season. Huggins, a rising senior, once again could have easily decided to move on. The logical choice, it would have seemed, would have been to go somewhere he could start and improve his draft stock, right? Not for Huggins. Instead, he stayed, kept grinding, and by the end of the season many of the national pundits were referring to him as the best backup DT in the country. He was really a backup in name only. He might not have been starting but he was a major contributor on the DL, logging 352 snaps. For comparisons sake, Dexter Lawrence logged 460.
A player the caliber of Dexter Lawrence being suspended just before the Cotton Bowl would have been disastrous for most programs. At Clemson it was just a case of next man up, and Huggins was that next man. After almost four full seasons, he would get his chance to start. He stepped in for one the key cogs along that defensive front, particularly in run defense, and they didn't miss a beat, holding Notre Dame to under 100 yards rushing in the Cotton Bowl and Alabama to under 150 in the CFP final.
Without question, Huggins saved his best for last. He was credited with 30 tackles, 3.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks in his senior season, by far his most productive. Who can forget his 5 tackle effort vs Alabama in the national title game? Or his sack of Jake Bentley in his final game in Death Valley?
Albert, the Tiger faithful thank you. We thank you giving it your all and being the consummate teammate. We thank you for the blood, sweat, and tears you have poured into this program. We thank you for the record tying 55 wins you helped this senior class achieve. The four consecutive ACC Titles, four straight CFP berths, and of course, the two National Titles you helped this team win. Huggy Bear, from the bottom of our hearts. we thank you. It has been a privilege to watch you do work and best of luck in the NFL!
A look back to the 2016 spring when Huggins was featured on a Clemson production of "Mic'd Up."