June 17, 2021


Keep Fit & Healthy

How coronavirus led to unusual Clemson pro day

4 min read

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Instead of handshakes there were elbow taps.

Former Clemson receiver Tee Higgins carried around hand sanitizer in his pocket and showed it off during interviews, encouraging reporters to “stay clean.”

Tigers offensive coordinator Tony Elliott used hand sanitizer as he left Clemson’s indoor facility, while Clemson tight ends coach Danny Pearman wore what appeared to be purple latex gloves.

Clemson held its pro day Thursday morning as players worked out in front of NFL coaches and scouts, hoping to improve their draft stocks. But there was a noticeably different vibe than your typical pro day with fear surrounding the coronavirus increasing around the country.

“I think just people trying to have good precaution with what you’re doing every day,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of the unusual actions. “And trying to help the cause, kind of slowing this thing down and eventually it’ll get under control so everybody can get back to living their lives.”

Higgins, linebacker Isaiah Simmons, safety K’Von Wallace, offensive lineman John Simpson and several other former Tigers participated in Clemson’s pro day.

All of the players that spoke with the media afterward described the day as different.

“It’s blowing my mind,” Higgins said. “They just canceled the NBA season. That’s crazy. … The thing is spreading like crazy, like a wildfire. I just hope everybody can stay healthy from it.”

Higgins, who likely improved his draft stock with 40-yard dash times of 4.54 and 4.56 seconds, was supposed to have dinner with an NFL team Thursday night, but the team was unable to fly due to the coronavirus outbreak. Instead, Higgins planned to fly to California on Thursday following pro day to continue training for the draft.

“I ain’t been drafted yet, so I’ve still got a lot of work to put in. Just going to go put in some work, get better, work on my craft and when April comes around, when the draft comes around, hopefully a team gets me,” Higgins said. “I’m monitoring it because of all the flights being canceled. So whatever happens, hopefully I can get back there. But it’s real big out there in L.A. Hopefully, I can get back so I can train.”

Simpson said that he has already had meetings with several teams, including the Giants, Bills, Buccaneers and Steelers. But he has also had “a few” meetings canceled due to the coronavirus.

Wallace has also talked with teams about “rearranging stuff.” However, if he can get to a meeting with a team, he plans to.

“It’s out of my control. Whatever comes is just going to come. If I can’t meet with a team, tape speaks for itself. I feel like my character speaks through my play and my personality speaks through my play,” Wallace said. “You’re going to get a passionate guy, a guy that loves the game, a guy that’ll do anything to play this game, play football — a guy that’s going to lead, a guy that’s going to do the right things on and off the field.”

Swinney had not received the news that the ACC was halting all practices, games and recruiting when he spoke with the media early Thursday afternoon, but he said he would be ready for whatever was decided. As things stand now, it appears a real possibility that Clemson could be done for the spring.

“The good news for us is we’ve already had nine spring practices and had a huge scrimmage (Wednesday),” Swinney said. “So we’ve gotten a lot of work done. And if we didn’t get another practice I feel good about what we’ve been able to get done.”

Swinney added that he doesn’t expect teams and players being unable to travel for meetings and workouts to lower the draft stock of any of his former players.

“These guys have years of tape. We’ve played in a bunch of games. They’ve had combines. We’ve had our pro day. You can still get on the phone with somebody and talk to them,” Swinney said. “You can facetime with somebody if you need to get that visual interaction. No, at the end of the day, they just sit back in a chair and kick their feet up and watch the tape. That’s what it’s ultimately going to come down to. Now they want to check all the boxes, but they can still get all of that done. I don’t think that will impact their opportunities at all.”

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