TAMPA, Fla. – It took 35 years and one failed attempt, but Clemson finally brought home a second National Championship. The second-ranked Tigers defeated No. 1 Alabama 35-31 in a thriller in Raymond James Stadium to earn the right to be called the top team in college football.
Here is what we heard:
Head coach Dabo Swinney was overwhelmed with joy after defeating his alma mater in which he won a National Championship of his own, especially since it came down to a two-yard touchdown reception that left one second left on the clock.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stomach watching that one any time soon,” Swinney said. “That has to be one of the greatest games of all time, just absolutely incredible, to have to take the field and go down the field to win the game, that’s what it’s made of. That’s what I told ’em when it was over. This is what it’s all about right here, boys. They fought. They fought for every play.”
That touchdown pass was caught by former walk-on wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who ended the game with 10 receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Renfrow said the reason Clemson has been so successful boils down to how Swinney cares for his players.
“I think Coach Swinney really does try to serve our hearts instead of our talents. I know we’ve said that before. And I think that’s why he’s so special and that’s why he’s the greatest coach in college football,” Renfrow said.
Swinney certainly had high praise for his game-winning receiver and for quarterback Deshaun Watson after he led the Tigers to victory with 2:01 on the clock.
“He didn’t lose out on the Heisman, the Heisman lost out on him. They lost out on an opportunity to be attached to this guy forever. But this guy, his class, his humility, this was his Heisman tonight, and this was really what he wanted. This is what he came to Clemson to do,” Swinney said. “He’s just been an unbelievable, unbelievable player, preparer, leader, and ambassador for this university. He set the standard. He set the bar for everybody coming through. It’s just unreal. Over a 3.0, and I’m so proud of him. I mean, this guy deserves it.”
Watson and Swinney shared a moment on the stage after the National Championship trophy was presented to reflect on the accomplishments Watson has made for himself and for Clemson in his three years.
“I said, ‘I love you. I said, man, this is what you came here to do, and so proud of you. We did it. We did it, what we set out to do.’ You know, it’s been mission critical, man. If it ain’t mission critical, we ain’t interested, and we kept it that way all the way.”
Following the game, Watson officially announced that his time at Clemson has come to an end, and he could not be more thankful for the opportunity to conclude his collegiate career with a victory that means so much to the entire program.
“Clemson is a special place. I’ve enjoyed every single moment since I came in in January of 2014. Three years kind of flew by, but I think it’s my time to go, just kind of end it with a bang,” Watson said. “I felt like Coach Swinney knew my time was up. I’ve enjoyed, like I said, the three years, and I just wanted to sign my name and end it with an exclamation point, and I think I did that. Moments like this I’ll never forget. Clemson was the best three years of my life.”