By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON, SC — Now that he knows the consequences for making a poor decision, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins says his goal is to try and regain the trust of his teammates as 14th-ranked Clemson prepares to kick off the 2012 season.
“I truly hurt myself. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I made a bad decision, and of course I hurt my coaches, my teammates and my family,” Watkins said. “But they have forgiven me and I’m very happy that I have a great coaching staff, a great family and great teammates.
“Now it’s my turn to make it up to them.”
Watkins, who will miss the first two games of the season due to his arrest back in May, says he will do everything he can to help his teammates get ready for the season-opener against Auburn, and he said he will do it with a smile on his face the whole time.
“My role is to stay positive and don’t let anyone see me down,” he said. “I’m going to keep working hard and come to practice with a good spirit. I’m going to walk around with a smile. I have no one to blame, but myself. It is in the past. I have learned from it.
“I’m going to work them hard so when they meet the other team, they are going to remember how hard we worked and how hard they must play. They still need to do their thing. They need to continue to work hard no matter how many games I have to sit out. I know they will, and I’m going to continue to work hard too.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said how many games Watkins would be suspended for was going to be based on what the 6-foot-1, 200-pound receiver did in trying to make it up. Swinney was amazed at what Watkins did over the summer, and the reports that came back to him impressed him even more.
“I told him back in May it was either going to be four games or two games, it was up to him what it was going to be,” Swinney said. “I’m really proud of him. He did a fantastic job with everything that was asked of him.
“I had people write me letters, people that he did some community service for and things like that. All you can do is respond when you make a mistake, and he’s responded the right way. Things sometimes that you think are the worst in your life turn out to be some of the best things that happen to you, if you handle it the right way and learn and grow. And I think that¹s
exactly what Sammy Watkins will do.”
Watkins teammates quickly rallied around him after learning of the suspension prior to Friday’s opening practice. Quarterback Tajh Boyd said he could tell his wide receiver was truly sorry for what he did, and he knows he’ll come back a better player and person because of it.
“Sammy is the most down-to-earth and humble person that I have ever met,” Boyd said. “Situations happen sometimes. It is a lesson learned throughout the whole team and throughout the state. There are consequences for your actions, but at the same time, I feel like something good will come out of this.”
Swinney and Boyd both feel the good will come from the opportunities it gives other players.
“It is an unfortunate situation, but I feel like now this will give a lot of other guys an opportunity to come in and step up for the first game,” Boyd said.
“I¹m confident in our football team,” Swinney said. “But there’s consequences for your actions, that’s something we talk about all the time, and after tonight we¹ll move forward. We’ve got 29 days before our opener, and we’ve got to get the football team ready.
“But (Watkins) will be ready when his opportunity comes, and there isn’t any doubt he’ll have a great year.”
Watkins says he is ready to help his team now, though he will not be able to play in a game until Sept. 15, when the Tigers host Furman.
“I’m going to come here and work hard every day,” he said. “I still will be able to help Coach Dabo and the team the same even though I will sit out the first two games. The fact is I messed up so I need to still come to practice and work hard every day like I have been doing.
“All I was thinking about this summer was repairing my image and rebuilding that trust. I want my teammates and coaches to trust me, again. That’s all I was worried about.”