You always hear “Best is the Standard” when it comes to Clemson football. It is a mantra Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has built his football program on.
When you walk into the Poe Indoor Practice Facility on the Clemson campus, those four words slap you right in the face with a huge banner that sits on the back wall of the facility. It is a banner that is hard to miss.
Swinney does not just preach the mantra, but he and his teams live it every day.
“You are going to be thirty (one day),” Swinney said last week as a guest speaker at the Men of Color National Summit in Clemson. “That’s how I run the program at Clemson. I care more about the thirty-year old version of (my players) than I do the nineteen-year old version. That is how we run the program. When I met them at thirty, I want them to come hug my neck, not turn and go the other way.”
The Clemson Football Program released Tuesday part of Swinney’s speech to the Men of Color Summit as he asked the crowd of young men to be the best version of themselves in everything they do and to always strive for greatness through hard work, dedication and discipline.
It’s how the Clemson football coach has lived his entire life, even when he and his mom were homeless when he was a teenager in Pelham, Ala. Even when he was cleaning gutters and mowing yards in the summer so he could workout with his team in Tuscaloosa after earning a scholarship to play football for the University of Alabama, even when he was a graduate assistant coach and he was trying to pay off his student loans while starting his family.
Swinney told them not to buy the lie that because they were born into a family or a situation that life is supposed to be the same for them.
“Don’t buy the lie that is the way it has to be for you,” he said. “Don’t buy that lie. I encourage you not to buy that lie. There is absolutely no special DNA. There is no magic bloodline. There is no special zip code that you have to live in to be great.
“You just have to make a decision to be the best version of you and then you have to be relentless towards it with an unbelievable attitude.”
Swinney went on to say heroes are not born and that they make themselves out of whatever they have.
“Greatness is born in the mind. That is where it is born and it is for all of us,” he said.
It is hard to argue with that when understanding Swinney’s origin story and then the success he has had at Clemson in his 10 years as a head coach. He has already won a national championship, played for another, won four ACC titles and has produced seven straight 10-win seasons in Tiger Town.
“Ya’ll are special. You need to act like it,” Swinney said. “You need to act like you are special. Walk like you are special. Talk like you are special. Associate and choose your friends like you are special. Eat like you are special, because you are.”
Swinney concluded his speech saying these are the same things he tells his team every day.
“If you are going to be the best version of you and you are going to be great, you have to give it all you got,” he said. “If someone asks you to do something, you do it the best that you possibly can do. I don’t care what it is. That is why best is the standard at Clemson. We want to run the race to win.
“Are we running the race or are we running the race to win? Best is the standard and if you apply that to your life, then that is what you are going to get.”