Big night came with a scare for Watkins

Clemson wide receiver and MVP of the game, Sammy Watkins, left, and head coach Dabo Swinney throw oranges into the crowd after Clemson defeated Ohio State 40-3 in the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Superstars like Sammy Watkins earn all the time they need.

It wasn't that Watkins was dodging the handful of assembled media waiting around his corner of Clemson's locker room at Sun Life Stadium.

But the man, the butcher who'd just sliced through Ohio State's secondary from sunset 'til past midnight in Clemson's 40-35 Orange Bowl victory Friday, winced in a grave amount of pain, barely able to remove his white Tigers jersey for likely the final time.

Watkins was clutching his ribs - they'd been crunched on his 16th and final catch of the night, he said. Asked if there was any body part that felt fine, Watkins said, "My whole body hurts right now."

Especially his right knee, wrapped noticeably in white. In the third quarter, he limped off the field after a non-contact play; perhaps a cramp or he was gassed, observers surmised.

Nope. He'd tweaked the knee.

"My cleats got stuck in the ground," Watkins said. "The cornerback went inside, and then he shot back out. Hot Rod (McDowell) didn't even get the ball, but I didn't know that. My cleat got stuck and I just basically fell."

For a moment, Watkins feared the worst.

"I thought I almost tore it, but I'm definitely fine," Watkins said. "I was definitely shocked, but it didn't tear. I finished the game."

Watkins did that a lot this year, when Clemson wasn't blowing out opponents. He gave a wealthy amount of credit to team trainers and weight room commanders for his markedly improved stamina and durability in 2013.

"Overall, I think I just give all the glory to the coaches and the weight trainer we've got, they handled me well this offseason getting me prepped for this long season," Watkins said. "This season, I didn't really have that many injuries because I took care of my body and they did the right things. They coached me the hardest on every detail in every situation. The power of preparation is definitely what you need in this game in football.

"I took everything I did serious, and this team helped me out through the course of this season. The best players gotta work hard and do the right things."

No, it's not been officially released if Watkins, fellow receiver Martavis Bryant or defensive end Vic Beasley are declaring for the NFL draft.

Watkins wants it done the right way - just like a dutiful employee who writes up a letter of resignation - but an illiterate could read between the lines.

"It won't be a hard decision, but we'll definitely talk about it," said Watkins, an expected top-10 pick. "I've made my decision, but I want to have respect for the university and coaches. We'll take that up Tuesday."

Beasley, who received a second-round projection from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, wasn't ready to announce his decision.

"Not yet, man," Beasley said. "I'm gonna announce that in two days."

Bryant was even a little more blunt than that. "I'm gonna decide tomorrow."

A team spokesman promised no press conferences this weekend, but news could arrive Monday or Tuesday.

One guy who won't be going anywhere could have given it a longer look.

Defensive end Corey Crawford, who does more of the little things than fans or stat gurus appreciate, revealed he got a third-round draft projection.

Remember, Beasley - a first-team All-American with sack records galore - got a second-round guess. That shows that NFL scouts pay attention to Crawford's run prevention on the edge, which was its usual solid self against the Buckeyes.

Crawford seemed pretty proud of that third-round grade, but he wants to accomplish more at the college level.

"Yeah, I thought it was a compliment, but I feel like I can build on it, possibly make it second or first round," Crawford said. "I'm coming back for my senior year."

Junior defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who announced in early December he was returning, confirmed he didn't bother sending in his paperwork.

Also, safety Robert Smith and wide receiver Adam Humphries didn't fill out paperwork either.