Christian Wilkins is reportedly making $3.8 million this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s changed his thrift.
You can take that to the bank.
“I always knew how to save and live on the bare minimum,” Wilkins said. “So I’m going to continue this exercise now.”
The former Clemson star, who will be playing his fourth season with the Miami Dolphins, took the NFL lead in defensive tackles last year with 89 tackles. The Dolphins recently got Wilkins’ fifth-year option that guarantees him a salary of $10.753 million for the 2023 season, but Wilkins continues to live up to his well-deserved reputation as Mr. Frugality.
So can it be assumed that Wilkins doesn’t have an extensive collection of expensive sports cars or palatial mansions?
“That’s right,” Wilkins told The Greenville News during a presentation at the Coaches4Character ACE Awards in Greenville last week. “I don’t do that much.”
To be honest, Wilkins never has and probably never will.
He traces his disciplined financial approach to growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he was the youngest of eight children in a low-income household.
To this day, he describes himself as “low maintenance” when it comes to his wants and needs.
“I didn’t grow up with much,” Wilkins said. “It’s been like this for ages.”
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Even during his time at Clemson. From shaking packets of sugar and squeezing slices of lemon into a glass of water to make his own lemonade in restaurants, to spending as much time as possible at the team’s soccer facility, he gained a reputation among his teammates as a real cheapskate , which helped him reduce electricity bills in his home and he was able to enjoy free meals.
Wilkins still bends down to pick up a penny off the ground, and if he’s lucky enough to find a dollar, that still makes his day.
“If I find a dollar anywhere, it’s like I won the lottery,” Wilkins said. “This is the happiest day of my life.”
Former Clemson running back Darien Rencher, who was a roommate of Wilkins at Clemson, said Wilkins’ reputation preceded him.
“One hundred percent. Anyone who knew Christian knew he was like that,” Rencher said. “He always appreciated a dollar and always appreciated what he had.
“He didn’t buy a lot of clothes. He wore a lot of Clemson gear. He wore many things that he got for free. He wore a lot of Clemson football boots.”
They worked out a mutually beneficial deal: Wilkins had the townhouse apartment, Rencher had the car.
“It was a tacit agreement that he could use my car whenever he wanted,” Rencher said.
Wilkins occasionally took up the offer, but mostly rode his bike to class and the football facility, Rencher said.
Wilkins, who made — and saved — $80 a day as a substitute teacher during his senior year at Clemson, can now afford just about anything his heart desires, and Rencher has noticed.
“Finally he has nice clothes and some nice little designer shoes,” Rencher said. “He hasn’t changed all that much, but he’s made some steps in the right direction.”
After all, it’s not Wilkins way to be a spendthrift.
And he continues to wear it as a badge of honor.
“We didn’t necessarily have a lot and that’s where the awareness came from,” Wilkins said. “I have lived and learned and found ways to achieve thrift. And I’m still who I am at my core.
“I’ve always had the attitude of going through life with less. I never needed much to be happy. I’ve always had enough inner happiness to not have to spend any money.”
Scott Keepfer covers Clemson’s athletics for The Greenville News and the USA TODAY Network.