CHARLOTTE — Dabo Swinney was a little surprised Thursday when a reporter covering the 2018 ACC Football Kickoff at the Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C., asked him about is faith.
It’s not a question Clemson’s national championship winning head coach gets too often and especially at a big event like ACC Media Days.
“I appreciate you asking that question. We can pass the bucket if y’all want and keep going. Didn’t expect that one,” Swinney said while gathering laughs from the media.
But as Clemson fans know, when it comes to his religious beliefs, it is no laughing manner to Swinney. No matter what he accomplishes in his career, he always gives credit to God.
“It’s hard to survive and thrive in this world if you don’t have a spiritual foundation and have something that will give you peace, because life is hard, and we’re all going to experience death and failure and setbacks and disappointments and cancer and … it’s just a really difficult world,” he said.
The Tigers’ head coach has always preached to his teams the key in anything is to put your faith and religion first, family second and work last.
“For me, God is always (first) and my relationship with Christ, He’s given me hope and peace,” Swinney said. “I love Jeremiah 29:11, ‘For I know the plans I have for you.’ That’s kind of been a life verse for me. It says to give you hope in the future. There are plans for good, not disaster. And so I’ve always taken that, and I’ve kind of applied that to my life along my journey.
“Everybody sees me now and I’m the head coach at Clemson and this and that, but my life hasn’t always been this way. I’ve always used that as, to me, if there’s really hope in the future, then there’s power in the present to deal with whatever mess you’re dealing with in your life, to step through, to hang in there, to persevere, to continue to believe in something, and that’s what my relationship with Christ did for me. It gave me a hope and a belief … the ability to have a hope and a belief beyond my circumstances.”
Swinney practices what he preaches. Though he demands and expects a lot from his coaches and players, he also demands they spend time walking in their faith and then spend time with their families.
“That’s just the priorities of my life,” Swinney said. “I grew up in a family that I was taught there was a God and all that, but I didn’t really have a relationship with Christ until I was 16. And that was a game changer for me. That’s really become the foundation of my life.”
During fall camp, the Clemson team is given Sundays off, while during the season the players are off on Sundays and the coaches don’t come in until the afternoon so they can go to church while also getting some valuable time with their families.
On Wednesday nights, the Clemson football program has family night where all the coaches’ wives and children come and spend time with the team following practice. And as always, Swinney allows his coaches’ kids to come to every practice so they can spend a little time with their dads.
Though he has won a ton of games in his head coaching career, a national championship, four ACC titles and seven bowl games, Swinney says his biggest accomplishment has nothing to do with football.
“Probably the greatest accomplishment that I have had to this point is to see my three sons come to know Christ and to know him as their Lord and savior,” the Clemson coach said. “But those are personal decisions that people have to make, but it’s just how I choose to live my life.
“Trust me, people that know me know I ain’t perfect, but I do try to live my life in a way that hopefully can be pleasing to my maker because I know I’m going to meet Him one day, and He’s not going to pat me on the back and talk about how many wins I had or how many Coach of the Year trophies we got or how much money I made. I really think He’s going to hold me accountable to how I took advantage of the opportunity and the blessings that He gave me, the impact that I had on young people, the type of men that we develop through a game.”
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