Since the age of four years old, Will Swinney has been at the top of the hill a lot. Most of those have come when taking family pictures when he and his brothers, Drew and Clay, join their parents, Dabo and Kathleen, to take pictures for the media guide at Howard’s Rock.
And though his dad is in his 15th season at Clemson, nine as the head coach, not once did Will run down the hill with his famous father on game days. As a Clemson fan, he respects the tradition too much to do that. His goal … he wanted to do it as Clemson Tiger. He wanted to earn that right.
This past Saturday, the freshman wide receiver got the privilege of touching Howard’s Rock and running down the hill for the first time as he joined his teammates prior to their win over Kent State.
“We always take pictures at the rock and you look out and see the stadium empty and you wonder what it would be like to see it filled up,” Will said. “Coming off the bus, it was still everything I imagined and more.”
“I’m happy I waited until I became a player,” the younger Swinney continued. “I’ve always seen them run down the hill, always loved it. I never ran down it for a game, just when the stadium was empty so it was awesome running down the hill. It was just crazy getting to the top of the rock and I was looking at the stadium and I was like ‘here I go.’” I didn’t jump or anything at the top of the (hump). I didn’t want to fall the first time for sure. It was really awesome though.”
It was an awesome moment for dad, too, who admitted on his call-in show on Monday night that he begged his son to stop and let him hug his neck as a proud father.
“That was pretty neat because that has been a dream of his,” Dabo said. “To be able to see your son achieve one of his goals and dreams in life, knowing how hard he has worked and I know that he appreciates the opportunity to run down that hill.
“He has grown up here. That was a special moment. It was neat for Kath to be able to be Mom. I didn’t get to see him on the field afterwards, but Kath came down and got to be on the field with her son. It was great.”
Will, who admitted he did not know if he would remember to go see his dad after he ran down the hill, said it was great to share that special moment with his father because he knew how proud his father was.
“He had told me before, he was like, ‘Hey whenever you come down come by,’ and I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know. We’ll see, we’ll see,’” Will said. “When I got down there I was just jogging and he was right there so I went up to him, gave him a quick hug, and it was just cool, a really neat moment.”
Dabo said he never watched an extra point so closely in all his life than he did following C.J. Fuller’ 26-yard touchdown run on the Tigers’ opening possession of the season. It was Will’s first action of the season as he won the job as Clemson’s holder on PATs and field goals.
“Heck, we scored so dadgum fast, I did not even have a chance to settle in,” he said. “But he did a great job. He is really gifted at that. It is something he has done since the seventh grade. They always made him do that. I always told him you never know how little things like that will pay off for you down the road and coincidently this year we went into this season, our two holders last year were Seth Ryan and Andy Teasdall, and we needed a holder and he is a natural.”
It allowed Will Swinney to earn the right to run down the hill for the very first time on game days.