Clemson has churned out some serious NFL defensive talent over the years. The Las Vegas Raiders already took two of the Tigers’ top defenders from their 2019 National Championship team in last year’s draft. While they didn’t look at Clemson early in the draft, the Raiders did pick up Tanner Muse in the third round.
Muse is expected to make most of his impact on special teams to start his career as he works to transition into a new role as a linebacker. However, he doesn’t seem too concerned about getting accolades for his play on the field. In an interview with Tashan Reed of The Athletic, Muse made it clear that he’s looking to make an impact off the field from day one.
“The first year in Vegas, I don’t see any other better result than breaking in the new season and the new team with a championship,” Muse said. “I want to be the Walter Payton Man of the Year. It would be awesome for me just to give back to the community any way that I can. Those are the two things I really want to do in my NFL career.”
The Walter Payton Man of the Year award is given to players who demonstrate excellence off the field. Not many rookies have an award like that on their mind, so it’s a testament to Muse’s character that he’s already thinking about it. A Raider player hasn’t won the award since George Blanda won it in 1974.
Clemson Coach Thinks Muse Has All-Pro Potential
Typically, players who are expected to mainly be special team contributors aren’t taken in the first three rounds of the draft, but Muse was the exception. If you’re going to take a special teams players, might as well go after one of the best.
“I think he’s a guy that has a chance to be an All-Pro special teams player,” Clemson head Dabo Swinney said, per Reed. “He’s incredibly smart — a fifth-year senior, graduate, great leader, captain — and is going to really make somebody a heck of a football player. He’s got great energy and brings great enthusiasm every single day and is excited about his opportunity coming up.”
According to Rick Gosselin of Sports Illustrated, the Raiders had the 25th ranked special teams unit. There’s definitely plenty of room for improvement and Muse should help.
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Muse Talks Role on Defense
While most of the focus is on Muse’s ability as a special teams player, the Raiders likely have future plans for him to make an impact on defense. He played safety in college but is moving to linebacker. He had a chance to talk about the transition.
“At linebacker, I’m going to be doing the run fits and handling dealing with more of the offensive linemen,” Muse said. “I have to just really train myself physically to be able to take on a role like that where I don’t fatigue and I’m always getting stronger during the games and being able to hold my own.”
Though it could take him a year or two before he’s ready to make an impact as a linebacker, he’s certainly got intriguing upside at the position. He’s got 4.41 40-yard dash speed, which is incredibly fast for a linebacker. Also, his experience as a safety should help him in pass defense. Right now, round three might feel like a reach for Muse, but he could develop into a very promising player for the Raiders.