Clemson coach thankful, grateful to be a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The first time Dabo Swinney visited the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, Ala., he was 11 years old.
It was a special day for Swinney and his father, Ervil. The two, along with Swinney’s mom, Carol, drove 20 miles up the road from Pelham to see Alabama legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe “Willie” Namath’s inclusion into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
“I got pictures with my mom and Joe Namath from that night,” Swinney said Friday to The Clemson Insider at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Museum.
On Saturday, Swinney will have his name permanently enshrined alongside legends like Joe Namath, John Stallworth and legendary Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant as a member of the Hall’s Class of 2018.
Swinney was a part of the welcoming press conference for the Class of 2018, which includes former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, golf’s Stewart Sink, Alabama football player Johnny Davis, NFL and college coach Chan Gailey, baseball player Tim Hudson, basketball star Bill Jones, gymnast Kathryn McMinn and American Sportsman Jimmy Rane.
Swinney is the sixth head coach from Clemson to be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
As a child, Swinney used to get up with his dad on Sunday mornings and watch the Bear Bryant Show. That’s when Swinney’s dream of playing for Alabama first began.
“My dad is not here in the flesh, but he is having a party,” Swinney said. “This is something, where he is up in heaven going, ‘Man! Unbelievable!
“It is hard for me to wrap my mind around it. I loved Coach Bryant. My coach, Coach (Gene) Stallings is in here and obviously Coach (Frank) Howard, Coach (Charlie) Pell, Coach (Danny) Ford, Hootie Ingram … it is a surreal feeling. Again, I am just so thankful and very humbled by it.”
Swinney might be humbled by it, but he has earned the honor after leading Clemson to the best decade in the history of the program. Since he became head coach in 2008, the former Alabama player has led the Tigers to 101 victories, seven straight 10-win seasons, four ACC Championships, three College Football Playoff appearances, two appearances in the national championship game and of course the 2016 National Championship.
“I’m just enjoying the moment,” Swinney said. “I am so thankful and grateful for first of all getting the opportunity to lead the program at Clemson and then grateful for my players because that is why I am here.
“I am grateful because there were so many young men that believed in me. They believed in the vision and the path. I am just a reflection of that and a reflection of all the people who shaped me over the years.”
That is why, when Swinney walked into the Hall’s Museum on Friday and saw his display sitting there, he stopped and took a few minutes to reflect on his life, his career and the many people who helped him get to this moment.
More importantly, he thought back to that moment as a little boy, with his parents by his side, when he met one of the biggest legends in the history of Alabama football … Joe Namath.
“To be here and to have your name displayed, and its an unbelievable facility and exhibit, but when you look at the names, from all these people from the state of Alabama, who brought recognition to the state of Alabama for whatever, it is incredible. It is overwhelming,” he said. “You are talking about Jesse Owens, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Bear Bryant, and to be alongside, I guess, I’m the sixth Clemson coach, and five us were former Alabama players that went on to coach at Clemson. It is very surreal and I’m just enjoying the moment.”