NEW ORLEANS — With Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, what you see is exactly what you get.
Just ask his players.
“A lot of people don’t believe that he’s the real deal, but he really is,” Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said during Friday’s Sugar Bowl press conference at the Marriott Convention Center in New Orleans. “He’s the same person every day. What you see on TV is how you see him in the locker room, how you see him on a random Wednesday afternoon in the spring. Just that same level of energy, that same level of love for his team.”
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant echoed Renfrow’s sentiments, saying Swinney is the same genuine individual in person that he appears to be when you watch his interviews on TV or see him dancing in the locker room with his team after a win.
“He’s a players’ coach,” Bryant said. “That’s one thing that caught my eye during recruitment. He’s been straight up with me and can relate to me. He’s down to earth, what you see on TV is what you get. He has allowed me embrace who I am as a player and a person. Having the support from him and the coaching staff just makes your comfort as a player go up.”
“Players’ coach” is the phrase that kept popping up as Clemson players described what it is like to have Swinney as their leader.
Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell said he would “run through a wall” for his head coach.
“You can’t put it into words,” Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. “He’s a player’s coach, and when you have someone that loves you and cares about you not just as a friend but as a man and a human being, you’ll do whatever for him. … I love that dude, because I know he cares about the person first.”
Swinney’s personality and style of coaching has certainly helped yield tremendous success for his program since he took over as Clemson’s head coach in 2008.
In 10 years (nine full seasons) as the Tigers’ head coach, Swinney has directed Clemson to a 101-29 overall record (.777 winning percentage, best by a Tiger coach). He has also led the Tigers to the ACC Championship Game five times, won four ACC titles, won or shared six ACC Atlantic Division titles and won seven bowl games (five against top-10 teams). His teams have compiled 26 wins over ranked teams in his head-coaching career, including 13 over top-10 opponents.
“At the end of the day, he knows what it takes to get there and the discipline it takes to get there,” Ferrell said of Swinney’s success. “So when you have that, he’s not a pushover and letting his players do what they want to do. He’s going to put them in the right position and hold you accountable.”
“Every year I’ve been here, we’ve been consistent,” Renfrow added. “We’ve done the same thing year in and year out, same schedule. And I think that’s what it takes to be champions and be successful and just the level of consistency that he brings.”
Renfrow said it is easy to play fast and free under Swinney, who takes the pressure off of his players.
That could prove important when the top-ranked Tigers take on No. 4 Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
“It allows you to play free,” Swinney said. “If you make a mistake, he’s going to be disappointed and he’s going to hold us accountable, but he’s not going to love us any less. And I know for me and a lot of the players, it allows us to play with a lot less pressure just knowing that he’s going to be there regardless.”