Throughout the years, many former Clemson players have played in past Super Bowls. However, just 32 of those have won Super Bowl rings.
But which former Tigers played the best in a Super Bowl?
It is hard to answer. Jeff Bostic won three Super Bowl rings during his All-Pro career at Washington.
But there is no way to tell how well Bostic did in those Super Bowls because he was the starting center, so there is not much statistical data to back it up. However, considering the Redskins controlled the lines of scrimmage in all three Super Bowls, I think it is safe to say the former Clemson Tiger graded well.
Safety Charlie Waters played on two Super Bowl winning teams during his time with the Dallas Cowboys, while tight end Bennie Cunningham did the same at Pittsburgh. But like Bostic, it hard to grade their performances because the positions they played were not always stat driven.
What are the best performances by a former Clemson Tiger in the Super Bowl era? I went back through the archives and pulled out what I believe are the best performances.
Best Super Bowl Performances by a Clemson Tiger:
(Note: Based off individual Super Bowls)
7. William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Super Bowl XX: From a statistical standpoint, Perry did not fill up the stat sheet or anything like that, but he made one of the more memorable touchdowns in Super Bowl history. Though he starred as a defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears, head coach Mike Ditka was amazed by Perry’s athletic ability. So, he played the 300-pound nose guard on offense from-time-time during Perry’s rookie season. Facing a goal line situation at the New England 1-yard line late in the game, and with the outcome no longer in doubt, Ditka lined Perry up in the backfield and gave him the football. Perry plowed through the Patriots’ defensive line and became the first defensive tackle to score an offensive touchdown in a Super Bowl. However, Perry’s touchdown did not come without controversy, many felt Ditka should have given the football to longtime running back, and Hall of Famer, Walter Payton. Payton was noticeably upset with Ditka, but he never made a comment publicly. Years later, Ditka admitted he made a mistake not giving the football to Payton in that moment. Nonetheless, the moment belongs to Perry, who also had one tackle in the game. His 1-yard rush matched the same number of rushing yards former Clemson quarterback Steve Fuller had in the game. Perry’s touchdown in the Bears’ 46-10 victory over New England was the only touchdown by a former Tiger in a Super Bowl until Tee Higgins scored two touchdowns in Super Bowl LVI.
6. D.J. Reader, Super Bowl LVI: Reader emerged as a leader on the Cincinnati defense in 2021, and played a big role in helping the Bengals earn their third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, the defensive tackle tallied just one tackle, but he was constantly disrupting things in the backfield. Reader finished the game with a team-best three hits on the quarterback. Unfortunately, it was not enough, as the Bengals fell to the Rams, 23-20.
5. Tee Higgins, Super Bowl LVI: You might think Higgins four catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns might but him in the top three on this list. Maybe it would have if his Cincinnati team won the game. But they did not. It does not take away from Higgins’ performance though. He scored on a six-yard touchdown pass from Joe Borrow in the second quarter and then opened the third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Higgins’ touchdown is the second longest pass play in Super Bowl history.
4. Levon Kirkland, Super Bowl XXX: Kirkland was a one-man wrecking crew for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. The Steelers are known for their linebacker lineage—Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Andy Russell, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene—Kirkland fell right in line. The former Clemson Tiger dominated the Dallas Cowboys, twice stonewalling the great Emmitt Smith on third-and-short. He should have had a third at the goal line, but officials ruled Smith crossed the goal line for a touchdown. However, replay showed Kirkland did stop Smith short of the goal line. Unfortunately for the Steelers, there was no replay review at the time. Smith finished the game with 49 rushing yards, including just nine in the second half. Later in the game, with the Steelers needing to get the ball back to attempt a game-winning drive, Kirkland came up the middle on third down and slung Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman to the ground. With the Steelers driving to win the game, an interception setup the Cowboys’ game-clinching touchdown. Kirkland finished the evening with 10 tackles, eight solo, and of course the sack on Aikman.
3. Grady Jarrett, Super Bowl LI: Like Kirkland, Jarrett was unblock-able in Super Bowl LI. New England had no answer for Atlanta’s defensive tackle. Jarrett tied a Super Bowl record with three sacks on the great Tom Brady. He finished the night with five tackles overall, four that were solo. Jarrett also had four quarterback hits. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Brady led the Patriots in a comeback for the ages. After trailing by 25 points early in the third quarter, 28-3, Brady brought New England all the way back to tie the game and force overtime. The Patriots ultimately won the game, 34-28. It was the largest come-from-behind win in Super Bowl history, and it was the first time a Super Bowl was extended into overtime.
2. Bashaud Breeland, Super Bowl LIV: Breeland had one of his best games in Super Bowl LIV. The cornerback tallied seven tackles in the Chiefs’ 31-20 win over San Francisco. He also had two tackles for loss and recorded six solo tackles. However, the biggest play for the former Tiger was his second-quarter interception, along the sideline, that set up Kansas City’s second score. Breeland played a big-role in the Chiefs’ come-from-behind win that evening in Miami. Kansas City trailed the 49ers, 20-10, deep into the fourth quarter before scoring 21 unanswered points.
1. Sammy Watkins, Super Bowl LIV: Never has a former Clemson player made as big of an impact on the outcome of a Super Bowl than Sammy Watkins did in Super Bowl LIV. Watkins caught five passes in the game for 98 yards, including a 38-yard catch to set up the game-winning touchdown with 3:44 to play in the Chiefs’ 31-20 come-from-behind win over the San Francisco 49ers. Watkins’ 38-yard catch over Richard Sherman moved the football to the 49ers’ 10-yard line. Kansas City scored the game-winner three plays later on a Damien Williams’ 5-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes. Watkins also hauled in a 27-yard catch in the second quarter after Breeland’s second-quarter interception. That set up a field goal that gave the Chiefs a 10-3 lead at the time.
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