This time last summer, Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett was openly talking about the NFL.
A junior then, he believed if he had a productive 2015, he could move on to the pros early.
A year later, he is still in a Clemson practice jersey, preparing for his senior campaign.
It’s not that Leggett didn’t have that big year in 2015. He caught eight touchdowns, which tied Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford for the most by a Clemson tight end in a single season. He was one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s top tight end, and went from “Lazy Leggett” to “Leggett the Leader,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said.
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“I’m very, very proud of him,” Elliott said.
But Leggett wanted more out of the collegiate experience.
“I’m really excited to have one more chance at this,” Leggett said Wednesday. “We were so close in the national championship (game last season). With all the guys we have coming back, I feel like we have the opportunity to do it again.”
Getting a national championship ring is the primary goal for the 6-foot-5, 259-pound Navarre, Florida, native, who never won a state title in high school. He said he’d also like to obtain a college degree and that Mackey Award.
Leggett is on pace to graduate in December. He’s already a preseason All-ACC tight end and mentioned among the best nationally at a position with a lot of returning talent.
Why stop there, though? With another big campaign in 2016, Leggett, who has 66 career receptions for 862 yards and 11 TDs, could finish as the best tight end to ever don the orange and purple.
“I try not to think about it because it’s too much pressure, but I’m excited,” Leggett said. “Listening to (tight end) Coach (Danny) Pearman every day and doing what I’ve got to do, just hoping we can make it happen.”
He'll need the ball to do it. Leggett is 393 receiving yards away from John McMakin (1969-71) on the all-time tight end list at Clemson. McMakin and Allen are tied for the most career catches with 93, another obtainable number for Leggett, who needs just two TDs to set the school mark.
Leggett set a school record last season with five consecutive games by a tight end with a touchdown catch. He finished the year with 40 catches for 525 yards.
“He’s a player,” senior center Jay Guillermo said. “He’s an asset any team at any level, college or professional, would love to have.”
With the return of Mike Williams to an already loaded receiver group, Clemson, which also possesses a talented backfield, has plenty of offensive weapons but still just one football. Elliott said he'll make a conscious effort to get playmakers touches, but stats will never come at the expense of winning.
“That’s one of the things I thought about coming back,” Leggett said. “We have so much talent at every position. (Quarterback) Deshaun (Watson) knows how to get the ball around and we have plays designed for different people so I think they'll do a good job getting everybody their touches.”
Leggett is also continuing his pursuit of being a reliable blocker. Combine that with the fact that he’s a mentor to half a dozen other tight ends on the roster, and Leggett is set to accomplish one major goal.
“I just want to leave Clemson better than I found it,” Leggett said.