There is a culture Dabo Swinney has built at Clemson, and it has nothing to do with football.
Swinney always says his program is about building young men into adults who can serve as role models and leaders in their communities one day, no matter where life sends them. We have seen a lot of that come to fruition in the last few years.
Sure, like anywhere else, Clemson has had a couple of young men divert from the standard, a time or too. No one is perfect and Clemson has never claimed to be. The arrest of former players Jadar Johnson and C.J. Fuller in March, two guys who played a role in the Tigers’ 2016 National Championship, hurt. It hurt all of Clemson, not just the football program, but the community, too.
However, their bad decisions are not the norm in a program that has seen so many of its former and current players do so much for others.
What the world does not always see is a Sean Pollard, who takes time out of his busy life as a student-athlete and starter on an elite level program, try to make a difference in the fight against cancer by helping little kids.
What the world does not see is Christian Wilkins mentoring young people by showing compassion for another human being that might be a little different.
What the world does not see is Clelin Ferrell and other players go on a third-world mission trip to help others in need.
What the world does not see is Deshaun Watson take 10 little kids on a shopping spree just because. They don’t see him helping others in need when Hurricane Harvey ripped the city of Houston apart. They don’t see Deandre Hopkins showing 200 hundred or so Houston kids how much fun exercising and playing outside can be.
Jarvis Jenkins, DeShawn Williams and Shaq Lawson coming back home and hosting a free football camp at their local high school does not make the headlines. Neither does Ricky Sapp doing the same in Myrtle Beach as he also tries to counsel young men to grow up and become strong leaders, not just on the football, but in life, too.
Very few make a big deal about Lawson buying a $22,000 scoreboard and giving it to his former recreation football league. No one wants to talk about those headlines.
No one sees C.J. Spiller personally giving one-on-one instruction to the 50 kids who attend his football camp every year. The former All-American readies the kids for the next step in their school careers and tries to guide them to be their own man and surround themselves with good people on and off the playing fields.
It’s not just the players that give back. Dabo Swinney practices what he preaches. Each year, his “All In Foundation” gives a ton of money back to the local communities through the many projects and grants it helps each year.
Swinney even gives to Clemson, both on the athletic and the academic side of the campus.
In the Bible, John 15:1-5 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
This is the way Swinney lives his life and this is how he runs his program. Not only does he give back because he wants to give back, but he is also an example to his players on why it is so important to help others. It’s woven into the culture at Clemson and it has become the character of the program.
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