As he does most days during Clemson preseason football camp, wide receiver Blackmon Huckabee Jr. was eating in the players cafeteria a few weeks ago, his back to the TV, when his teammates started pointing at the screen. He turned, stunned to see ESPN’s SportsCenter showing a clip of him belting out “Tennessee Whiskey” to a room full of coaches just a few days earlier. “I had no idea,” Huckabee says of the clip’s airing. “I tried to play it off in front of the guys, but I was pretty giddy.”
Giddy because Huckabee is as devoted to music as he is to football, twin passions kindled early in his hometown of Clover, South Carolina. “My older sister was always singing, and I’ve known I can sing since fifth grade,” he says. “The weird thing is everybody sings in Clover. The schools have big choirs, there are a cappella groups, and all the athletes participate.”
When a strong high school senior year on the gridiron attracted recruiters, though, Huckabee put music on the backburner. After playing at Furman University, he transferred to Clemson in 2021 to try out for the Tigers as a walk-on. “My family bleeds Clemson, so I decided to go for it,” he says. “I created my own workout plan and nutrition plan, and if I couldn’t make the team, [I’d know] at least I tried. It was surreal when they brought me on.”
Even so, Huckabee knew he wasn’t likely to land on SportsCenter for scoring TDs and has been content in a backup role. As his senior year at Clemson approached, he started singing again and posting covers on TikTok, sometimes recorded with Tigers banners and practice fields as backgrounds. “I try to hit as many genres as possible, but I lean toward pop R&B, like Justin Timberlake, something with a groove,” he says.
@blackmonhuck Back in 3 weeks #clemsonfb #singing #singingfootballplayer #clemsonfootball #fyp #letsgetiton ♬ original sound – Blackmon Huckabee
The son of head coach Dabo Swinney happened to see those TikTok performances, which led to Huckabee singing in front of an “all-in” meeting of ninety coaches and staff, plus about ten teammates. “I had no clue that was going to happen,” Huckabee recalls. “I was just speaking on behalf of the career development center, and they put a mic in my hand. I thought, ‘What’s a song that everybody here knows?’ and went with ‘Tennessee Whiskey.’ It was the first time I’d sung live in front of people in the building. Luckily, a camera was running.”
What that camera captures is Huckabee, clad in shorts and sandals, wielding a clear, strong tenor to wow the room with a rendition of the Chris Stapleton hit. (A grinning Swinney snaps his fingers in support.)
When an ESPN producer contacted Huckabee to obtain the clip, he hoped it might be used online, so he was as shocked as anyone to suddenly see himself crooning on SportsCenter—along with an intro from Swinney endorsing him for American Idol. That exposure has blown up his TikTok and generated the sort of media buzz that can create future opportunities. For now, as the season’s first game versus Duke rapidly approaches, Huckabee is just trying to appreciate the moment. “I’ve been singing, and a Clemson fan, for my entire life,” he says, “so to combine these two things I love has been crazy.”