Carlos Watkins, Clemson visit White House

Mooresboro defensive star gets singled out by President Trump

Rafael Suanes | USA Today Sports
President Donald Trump (center) gestures towards Clemson Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware (left) and nose tackle Carlos Watkins (right) during a ceremony to celebrate winning the 2016 NCAA Football National Championship on the White House South Lawn.

The ACC crowned national champions in football and men’s basketball last season, and both came from the Carolinas.Immediately after the University of North Carolina won the NCAA basketball tournament in early April, Roy Williams was noncommittal about whether he would take his team to the White House. While the visit to D.C. to meet the president is a tradition among title-winning teams, Williams, who had criticized President Trump in the past, said he would have to “think on” it.At the moment, no visit from the Tar Heels is on the White House schedule.That doesn’t mean that college athletes from the state North Carolina will be shut out on White House visits, however. Trump hosted the College Football Playoff champions Clemson on Monday, June 12, and the Tigers had plenty of players from the Old North State.A total of 19 players from North Carolina were on Clemson’s roster last year, second only to Clemson’s home state of South Carolina.In the national title game, Clemson started two offensive linemen — right guard Tyrone Crowder (Marston) and right tackle Sean Pollard (Southern Pines) from North Carolina — as well as two defensive linemen — tackles Dexter Lawrence (Wake Forest) and Carlos Watkins (Mooresboro) — as well as free safety Van Smith (Charlotte). Mark Fields (Charlotte), Tanner Muse (Belmont) and Andy Teasdall (Winston-Salem) also saw action in the game.Six months later, they joined their teammates in braving the 90-plus degree temperatures to officially close the book on the championship season.”It’s great to be back together, get the chance to reminisce with some of these guys that I haven’t seen in awhile,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s great to be back one more time.”Swinney also took time to thank Houston Texans owner Bob McNair for helping make sure the entire team got back together. Houston drafted a pair of players from the team — quarterback Deshaun Watson in the first round and Mooresboro’s Watkins in the fourth. Both players were in Houston, training for their rookie season, but McNair flew them both out and accompanied the players on the South Lawn.Watkins earned a mention from President Trump during the South Lawn ceremony, one of six Tigers the president singled out by name, and the only one from North Carolina.”Defensive Tackle Carlos Watkins had an incredible game,” Trump said, “and he’ll be joining Deshaun in Houston. I’m going to be watching that team very closely.”The president then asked Watkins and defensive MVP Ben Boulware to join him at the podium.”You think I could take these guys in a fight?” Trump asked the crowd. “I don’t know.”Prior to the ceremony, the team had the chance to go on a tour and eat lunch at the White House. After presenting the President with two jerseys — one for him and one for his son, Baron — Swinney took his team to the Capitol to meet with the South Carolina congressional delegation. Some members, including Senator Lindsey Graham, attended the South Lawn event as well.