Albert Huggins's pre-NFL Draft celebration

A pre-NFL Draft celebration for Clemson’s Albert Huggins was held Wednesday evening at Antley’s BBQ. Joining Huggins in this photo as he talks about his career, family and future are his mother and father, Eularia Huggins and Albert Huggins Sr. More photos at TheTandD.com.

For former Clemson defensive lineman Albert Huggins, there was a special moment Wednesday night at his pre-NFL Draft celebration with a select group of friends and family.

It came when his father, Albert Huggins Sr., spoke.

"Man, just my Dad was out there man. Said he was proud of me … wanted me to keep pushing," Huggins said. "And that's my main goal in all of this, make my parents proud, make my supporters proud. So just cried a little bit … my emotions got high, but I'm glad everybody's here today. It's good to see my supporters came out and supported me and wanted to break bread with me."

For Huggins, the list of people coming out on a Wednesday night to celebrate with him was overwhelming.

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Whether it was Orangeburg Mayor Pro Temp Liz Zimmerman, former Orangeburg-Wilkinson head coach Tommy Brown or family members, it was a special night for Huggins, who admitted that if it hadn't been for some of the people in his life, he may have not been able to achieve everything he has.

“Oh man, it was great. … Like I said that's just, it's a blessing," Huggins said. "A lot of guys don't get this opportunity to bring the family together and do this. So I'm just happy.

"Me and coach Brown go way back. It was a time where we were all sitting down on the bleachers, and he asked, 'Do you want to play offensive line or defense?' And I wanted to play D. He gave me the opportunity to play defensive line. Coming out of middle school, I played offensive tackle.

"It changed my life. He’s always been supporting me, and he’s a great guy. … He always has advice for me. I can call him whenever and he’s gonna answer the phone. And we can talk whenever. Just having him here and supporting me ... its’s great."

Now Huggins is preparing for a moment that he has dreamed about since he was a little boy -- having his name called in the NFL Draft.

"For the last two years at Clemson, I've been keeping my head down, not worrying about it, putting it in the hands of God. That's what I'm doing now," Huggins said. "I've been training, went through the combine, went through pro day, just train keep my head down. When my name is called, I'll be ready.”

What makes Huggins "ready" is the way the Clemson program has helped mold him and prepare him, not only for this monumental moment, but for life in general.

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It is that opportunity to play for a program like Clemson that Huggins understands was incredible -- one that few people have.

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"Coach Swinney, he ingrains things in us man, that won't ever leave us," Huggins said. "I really feel like coach has made me a better person, better player, actually gave me an opportunity. I know some folks don't get the opportunity, so I'm just thankful coach gave me the opportunity to go out there and show my talents, and here were are now."

Now, arguably, the most stressful three days of Huggins’ life begin. He has answered all of the questions, done all of the workouts, done all of the work asked of him and now must wait for the one phone call that will change his life forever.

But if anyone is expecting there to be a huge watch party for Huggins, they are wrong. He plans on being with his parents and a couple of friends at home.

"Oh man, we just going to be at the house," Huggins said. "And we just want to eat a little bit, man, and watch the draft. Whenever that phone call rings, whenever it rings … I'll be there.

"Everybody gives you that call, makes sure your number is right, your agent is still the same, make sure you're 100% healthy. I really don't know where I'll end up at. Wherever I end up … I'll be ready. I'm not sure, hopefully somebody will pick me up."

Regardless of where Huggins lands in the NFL Draft, it will undoubtably be one of the greatest accomplishments of his life, but not THE greatest.

That honor is reserved for graduating from Clemson.

"We got nine rings, I've been here for four years and I've got nine rings. And I got 10 actually, and it’s a graduation ring," Huggins said. "It's special man, it outweighs any other rings, even a national championship. Me personally, it’s just a blessing to actually have the opportunity to go to college to graduate.

"I'm from Orangeburg, South Carolina. They stereotype us, don't make it out, working at a plant, working at a farm or something like that. For me to get an opportunity to leave, go make a name for myself, it’s a blessing."

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia.


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