After growing up on the sidelines watching his dad coach the players around him, Will Swinney got his own opportunity to play for his dad, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, last Saturday against Kent State.
It was a special moment for the receiver who had dreamed of this moment his whole life.
Question: I was a little shocked to learn you have never run down the hill ever until Saturday. Why is that?
Will Swinney: “No. I always thought if I was going to run down it that I should be a player and I’m happy I waited until I became a player. I’ve always seen them run down the hill, and 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.”
Question: What was it like meeting Dabo on the field?
Swinney: “Well, 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’. 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.’
Question: You’ve watched so many games from the sideline. How surreal was it to be in uniform on the sideline?
Swinney: “It was really surreal because you’re used to trying to stay back on the sideline and stay away from the field and now I’m going out on the field to go play so it just felt like a dream the whole time.”
Question: You have always played catch on the field during pregame. What was it like going out there for pregame in uniform?
Swinney: “It was a little different because when I was a coach’s kid you have your own routine before the games where you’re seeing family but when you go in there as a player you learn a different routine and that was my first time doing that. It went well. Receivers have a little warm up beforehand and then we all get changed and come out with the specialists and do some holds. I like the routine. It was good.”
Question: Did you expect to get on the field that quickly for the first hold?
Swinney: “I was ready for it. I knew we had a chance to score pretty quick, but it still happened pretty fast for sure. Fourth play I think so yeah.”
Question: As a kid you probably ran down that hill a bunch with your brothers. Can you talk about those moments when you were a kid just doing that and now you’re actually living it?
Swinney: “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. Coming off the bus, it was still everything I imagined and more?”
Question: Did your brothers say anything to you during the game? I’m sure they were really proud of you.
Swinney: Clay walked up to me several times and was like ‘nice hold’. They thought it was really cool to see me out there.
Question: have you learned anything different about your dad through this process or has he surprised you at all going from dad to coach?
Swinney: “No. First off, he’s coached me in other things. I’ve also been around this program for a long time so I’m used to him being the coach of Clemson. It really hasn’t changed anything. It’s just like I thought it would be.”
Question: Is he harder on you than the rest of the players?
Swinney: “No he treats me like any other player. If I mess up, he’ll let me know.”
Question: Have you gotten aggravated with him?
Swinney: “No. That’s my coach and any coaching I get from anyone I know they’re trying to make me better so I just take it and try to improve with it.”
Question: So how did you get to be Hunter Johnson’s roommate and do you guys do typical college stuff or study film in your room at night?
Swinney: “Basically they just pair up roommates close to position groups so he was a quarterback and I was a receiver. It just was a natural fit. And Hunter and I will talk if I ever have questions about the playbook or him we’ll discuss things. A lot of times we’ll be watching film here so we don’t watch too much back at the place. We normally just go there to sleep after a long day.”
Question: You’ve seen a lot of Clemson-Auburn matchups, what do you see from them Saturday?
Swinney: “It’s going to be fun. It’s not going to change for us. We’ll have the same routine practicing but it will be fun playing them for sure.”