Today’s Clemson flashback takes us back to the late eighties as we pay tribute to a Clemson great out of Lamar, South Carolina. The one and only, linebacker Levon Kirkland, who played at Clemson from 1988-1991.
Kirkland never earned more than honorable mention all state honors as a high school football player but he made up for that while at Clemson, registering a number of standout contests. For example, in 1989 when he won the MVP Award in Clemson’s Gator Bowl win over Major Harris and West Virginia.
Kirkland set a school record with 43 starts as an outside linebacker and also started four straight bowl games. He was also part of two ACC Championship teams.
He would go on to finish with 273 career tackles, including 19 sacks, 40 tackles for loss, and seven recovered fumbles while at Clemson. Kirkland was named to Clemson’s Centennial Team in 1996 and was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame in 2001.
Kirkland was named first team All-ACC three consecutive years and is one of only three Tigers in school history to do that. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award as a junior in 1990 when Clemson led the nation in total defense. Most recently Kirkland received the highest Athletic honor In Tigertown when he was inducted into the Ring of Honor last October.
Over Kirkland’s time as a Tiger, Clemson won the ACC championship twice, had four top 20 seasons and posted a 39-8-1 record. His success at Clemson led to an NFL All-Pro career for him and led to him being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the 1992 NFL draft.
He was named to the NFL’s All Decade team of the 1990s. Over his career, Kirkland played 176 career regular season games and 13 playoff contests. He had a total of 1,023 tackles, 19.5 sacks, and 16 forced fumbles during his 11 seasons.
Kirkland returned to Clemson in 2004 to finish his degree in sociology and soon began contemplating his next career move which has involved helping young people through his job as Vice President of Development with the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame.