'That is one big Mister': Clemson's 300-pound DL turned kindergarten teacher

From ESPN - March 12, 2018

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Now we know the real reason Clemson All-America defensive tackle Christian Wilkins decided to return to school for his senior season.

He wanted a stiffer challenge. He wanted to teach kindergarten.

Wilkins, chuckling at the thought, isnt quite ready to go there, but he does have a new outlook on school teachers. Thats because Wilkins has been moonlighting as a substitute teacher the past few weeks and even dared to fill in one day in a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten class at James M. Brown Elementary School in Walhalla, South Carolina.

It was fun, but took a lot out of me, said Wilkins, throwing his eyes wide open and exhaling slowly. I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop with all those little kids. Talk about energy, but it was a real cool experience.

And not just for the kids, who were mesmerized by their new 6-foot-4, 300-pound instructor.

The other teachers were the ones who knew who I was because so many of them are lifelong Clemson fans, Wilkins said. Some of them would kind of poke their heads in and take slow walks past the classroom, just taking their time. But the kindergarteners ... they just see me as a giant. They love being affectionate and having attention.

Ashley Robertson, the principal at James M. Brown Elementary School, has three degrees from Clemson, and the only Clemson football games shes missed over the years were the ones when she was in the hospital delivering her three children. So when she got the news last week that Wilkins would be filling in at her school, she in her own words went full-blown fangirl.

In fact, when she received the text message that morning while getting in the car to take her kids to school, she let out a yell rivaling anything you might hear at Death Valley on Saturday afternoons in the fall.

I was screaming at the top of my lungs, and my kids were wondering what was going on, Robertson recounted. I was the first person to go meet him and take him to the office. He was great and wanted to keep it very professional, so we made everybody aware that while we did have a national champion among us that we didnt want to bother him for pictures and autographs. It was clear he was there to do his job and not for publicity.

When Wilkins first walked into his classroom, the kids were all sitting on the carpet and waiting. And as their towering substitute entered, one of the kids immediately piped up and exclaimed, That is one big Mister right there.

Robertson now wishes that she would have taken one picture of Wilkins that day.


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