The last thing Dabo Swinney heard from his agent Mike Brown was this, “Hey, Dabo! You did it! We did it! Clemson won a National Championship.”
That was this past Friday night as Clemson’s head coach was getting off the phone with Brown. Two days later, Brown, 59, suddenly passed away after fighting pancreatic cancer. Brown was diagnosed with the disease back in October and had just finished his chemotherapy last Wednesday.
He was scheduled for surgery next week.
“It made Dabo really happy that Mike got to see Clemson win a national championship,” Swinney’s wife Kathleen said. “That was just so special. We can’t stress enough how much Mike meant to us and how much he helped us.”
Brown was more than just Dabo Swinney’s agent. He was his friend. He was a friend to Kathleen and to the Clemson Family.
“We are just so grateful for him,” Kathleen said. “He was such a great man. He had such a wonderful heart.”
Brown’s relationship with Dabo began in 2008, when Dabo became the head coach at Clemson. It was not long after that the Swinneys approached Brown about what they could do to give back to the community now that they were so blessed.
“It was heavy on Dabo’s and my heart,” Kathleen said. “Dabo and I knew what we wanted to do, but we did not know how to go about it.”
Like any good agent, Brown gave them some pointers and made a few suggestions. However, unlike most agents, Brown took ownership of the request. He was instrumental in getting things started. He took everything the Swinneys wanted to do and ran with it. He found out all of the legal matters, the financial matters, researched different foundations and how to start with a 501C.
“That is not the typical thing an agent will do,” Kathleen said. “He did all of those things that Dabo and I did not have time to do. So when Dabo and I had this dream and this vision, we took it to Mike and said, ‘This is what we want to do and this is really important to us,’ and he went and got it all going for us.”
The end result was Dabo’s All In Team Foundation, whose mission is to raise awareness of critical education and health issues in order to change lives of people across the state of South Carolina. The foundation raises money for breast cancer research, helps with broken homes due to alcohol or drug abuse, The Clemson LIFE Program as well as several other needs through its grants program.
“Mike made Dabo’s and Kathleen’s dream become a reality,” said Jeanie Gilmer, a good friend of Brown’s and the Swinneys’ who helped with the All In Foundation. “He was the foundation of the foundation. He really worked hard and put his heart and soul into the foundation and wanted to raise as much money as they possibly could in order to help as many people as they possibly could in the state of South Carolina. It was amazing.”
Brown worked closely with Kathleen, Gilmer and Chairman of the All In Ball, Dr. Robin Wilson. The four would get together every September and go through every grant submitted to them.
“We sat down and read through every grant and would talk about it. It brought me so much joy and Mike loved it as well,” Kathleen said. “That was so important to me. Those grants are like my baby and Mike would always talk to me about them. We had so many conversations about them through the years.
“He and I would talk about them, then Jeanie, Robin and I would sit down for hours and award them and decide who was going to get money and how much. Mike was a very instrumental part of that.”
Gilmer said Brown was the brain trust behind it all because he was so smart and had all the numbers and figures in his head.
“We called him the human computer,” Gilmer said affectionately. “He did not use a calculator or anything to work the figures. He was like a human computer when we would be in meetings, but with that, he had such a big heart. He wanted to serve.”
With Brown’s help, and with ideas like the All In Ball and the Ladies Football Clinic, Dabo’s All In Foundation took off. The All In Ball, the Dabo Swinney Football Camps and the Ladies Football Clinic are sold out before they are even advertised. Last year, the All In Ball raised more than $700,000 by itself.
In the first year of the All In Ball, 280 people attended and raised $80,000. That was in April of 2009. Last year, more than 800 attended, while raising more than $700,000. Kathleen and Gilmer said it was all of Brown’s doing, though no one would have ever known it.
“Mike was not about being in the front,” Gilmer said. “He really was a great man. It is going to be a big void for us. It truly is. He did the job of about ten people. It is going to be tough. We are going to miss him so much. He was such a great man.”
—Photo courtesy Chad Dunn / Facebook
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