When he took over the Clemson football program as the interim head coach back in October of 2008, Dabo Swinney walked into his first team meeting with a carved wooden sign that said simply said, “Believe.”
This one word is the root to how Clemson has become one of the elite programs in college football. It’s a word that goes back to Swinney’s childhood, a moment in his life when he was looking for something to believe in, something to hang on to, and something to look forward to.
No surprise, it came from his childhood hero. A man he looked up to and one day inspired to be. Legendary Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was that man.
“I learned from Coach Bryant as a young kid looking for some hope, looking for something to believe in, looking to believe in something positive. What I learned from Coach Bryant was belief,” Swinney said to the crowd at the Bear Bryant Award Ceremony in Irving, Texas earlier this week. “I learned belief. To this day in my house, I have the famous quote and picture of Coach Bryant and it is what we have built our program with. We built our program with an attitude of belief.”
Clemson’s program has gone from one that hoped it was going to win to one that believes it is supposed to win.
“That’s what it takes,” said Swinney, who won the Bear Bryant Award as the national coach of the year in 2015 and 2016 and was a finalist in 2017.
Since 2011, the Tigers have posted an 82-15 record, second best in the country. They have won four ACC Championships, recorded seven straight 10-win seasons, won six bowl games, played in three straight College Football Playoffs, played in two straight national championship games and won the 2016 National Championship.
“Coach Bryant said that if you believe in yourself and you have dedication and pride, and don’t quit. He did not say there weren’t going to be bad days and good days. He said if you believe in yourself and you have dedication and pride, which means you care a little bit, and you don’t quit, you will be a winner,” Swinney said. “There is a lot packed into that, but that is exactly what we built our program with. The Bible says, ‘As a man thinketh, so is he.’ (PROVERBS 4:23)
“So your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny. Your destiny is determined by what your beliefs are.”
And at an early age, thanks to Bear Bryant, Swinney started to believe he could be the best in whatever he chose to do. That’s has been his staple even since and now it is Clemson’s, too.
Swinney always says, he even said it after the Tigers won last year’s national championship, “The best is yet to come.” He believes that.