If you are ever around Dabo Swinney long enough, you will hear him talk about making life decisions. How do you live your life? How do you want to live your life?
Everyone’s life is a sequence of decisions we make when we are younger and live with as we move forward. With each decision comes a consequence, good and bad. This is the message Swinney often delivers to his team, not just because he wants to make sure they stay out of trouble, but that he genially cares for their wellbeing
“It’s all about the heart that he has for his players and young people in general, people in general,” said former Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips. “I have heard him say, ‘Life is a pattern of decisions that you make. It is a sequence of decisions and you need to be on the right side of those decisions on what is right and what’s wrong.’”
Phillips says Swinney is more than just a good coach, but a great coach. He understands he has to be tough. He understands he has to coach hard on the field and he is as hard-nosed as any other coach out there.
“But all of it relates back to working through adversity, the decisions that you make,” Phillips said. “That is what is going to make your life.”
Few have had to work through the kind of adversity Swinney has in life. It would have been easy for the young Dabo Swinney to take the other fork in the road while using the excuse he grew up in a broken home which led to being homeless at one point. He could have easily chosen a path of self-destruction, and would have been just another statistic of failure as a child growing up in an alcoholic abusive home.
But Swinney has always been a man of faith, and he has allowed God to guide him through life one decision at a time. First in playing sports, where he became a star athlete in football, basketball and baseball. He then found a way to attend college before eventually walking on to the football team at the University of Alabama.
As we all know, Swinney worked hard to earn a scholarship on and off the field, and became a starter on a team that won the National Championship in 1992. So Swinney does not preach about how decisions you make in life run together, he is living proof of how they affect your life in general.
Unlike many coaches, Swinney can relate a lot to what some of his players are going through or have gone through while growing up in similar family atmospheres that he did.
“I’ve been especially proud of what Dabo has been able to accomplish because life was not always easy for him,” Phillips said. “He came up in difficult situations, but persevered with always a great attitude. There is not a thing that he truly can’t believe that he can’t do.”
Phillips, who hired Swinney as Clemson’s head coach when nobody knew who he was or what he was about, truly believes a movie should be made about Swinney’s life and what he has been able to do as a person and as a coach.
“They can make a movie out of it because you go back to how he and Kathleen were as young people and what they went through with college and how he walked on … walking on, getting a scholarship and being able to contribute and be on a National Championship team as a player,” Phillips said. “I am just very proud of him as a man, a husband, and as a mentor of young people.
“If he wasn’t a great coach, he would still be a great man, and a great mentor, and a great husband, and a great father. He has that character and that perseverance.”