Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney always emphasizes to his team the importance of enjoying the journey throughout the course of a season and embracing each moment that comes along the way.
Swinney’s message is no different this week as the top-ranked Tigers prepare to face No. 4 Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
“I want our guys to enjoy it,” Swinney said upon Clemson’s arrival to New Orleans on Wednesday afternoon. “Everywhere we go, all these bowl trips, we try to enjoy the journey. That’s what it’s all about to me. It’ll be a great moment Monday night, but it’s really the journey that I try to always enjoy.
“This could be the last week to be with this team. Hopefully we can earn one more bus ride and pregame meal and all that stuff, but you have to earn that. That’s what it comes down to. But I want them to enjoy it and have some fun.”
First and foremost, the Tigers are focused on the task at hand, which is a tall one. Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide is never easy to beat, especially two times in a row.
At the same time, Clemson isn’t losing perspective. Being in the Big Easy for the College Football Playoff is a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience, and the Tigers intend to have a little fun, too.
Clemson worked hard to get to where it is, having beaten six top-25 teams to this point. So this trip is sort of like a reward for the Tigers.
“Our guys are ready to go, locked in. But we’re also here to enjoy it,” Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said. “We’ve earned this. We’ve earned the right to be here, so just looking forward to enjoying our time down here. But most importantly it’s a business trip. So our guys are ready, focused, locked in and ready to go.”
Make no mistake, this is a business trip for the Tigers — the work comes first, but there will be time for a little play leading up to the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
“But we always say hey, the fun’s in the winning. Ultimately it comes down to that,” Swinney said. “You’ve got to want to win the game, but I don’t think you have to be miserable to do that in the process. So it’ll be a great week. We’re looking forward to it.”