Clemson’s head coach still has bigger dreams for the program
There are some people that believe nothing good comes from being a dreamer. Obviously, those people have never met Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
Swinney is the dreamer of all dreamers. The 49-year old Pelham, Ala., native has been a dreamer his entire life.
“I’ve never been a small dreamer. I had a lot of time as a kid to dream. There wasn’t much else left to do,” he said.
Growing up, Swinney dreamed to be the best high school football, basketball and baseball player he could be, and he succeed in doing all three.
Though he came from a poor family where sometimes life was hard, and money was scarce, Swinney always dreamed he would attend the University of Alabama. He also achieved that dream.
He also always dreamed about playing for the Crimson Tide. So, he walked on to the football team, made it and eventually earned a scholarship before becoming a starter during his senior year. He also dreamed of being a part of a national championship team at Alabama, he accomplished that.
When he became a graduate coach at Alabama under Gene Stallings, Swinney dreamed one day of becoming a head coach. On December 1, 2008, that dream came true when he was named the 25th head football coach at Clemson University.
Ten years to the day he was hired at Clemson, Swinney led the second-ranked Tigers to their fourth consecutive ACC Championship and their fifth overall under his guidance with a victory over Pitt in the conference championship game.
And though he has won five ACC Championships, a national championship and will be coaching in his fourth straight College Football Playoff later this month in the 83rd Cotton Bowl Classic, Dabo Swinney is still dreaming.
“Well, as I’ve said many times, we’re not even close to what I was dreaming about,” he said.
And given all the success the Tigers have had in the past eight seasons, that’s crazy to think about.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Clemson has amassed a 95-15 record. It has won 10 or more games eight straight seasons now, the third best streak in the history of college football. It once again owns the ACC, especially the last four seasons.
The Tigers are 34-2 against ACC competition, including four wins in the conference championship game since 2015. This year’s senior class is 53-4 overall, including a 19-1 record in true road games and a 27-1 record at home.
Clemson has now completed two 12-0 regular seasons in the last four seasons, has played in two national championship games and has won one. It had the pleasure of playing in three Orange Bowls, Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl and now will play in the Cotton Bowl.
“I’ve always dreamed big. The Bible says as a man thinketh, so is he. I’ve always believed in that,” Swinney said. “I think you got to be a champion on the inside. You got to believe the right things. You got to be able to see it and have a vision for it. Then you got to go act upon it.
“You can’t be afraid to fail. You can’t let other people put limits on you — let other people put limits on what you can and can’t do.”
As good as the Tigers have been and have been the model of consistency in college football for a long time now, Swinney believes there are still some things he could have done better. However, he had a vision for building a program at Clemson that would be special and one everyone would be proud of and could hopefully be a model program in college football.
“I think we’re still under construction, still got a lot of work to do. I continue every day and every year to continue to dream, to believe in a very positive future,” Swinney said. “That’s just the way I go about things. I’ve never sat around and said, ‘Well, hopefully we can win nine games, this and that.’ If we’re going to dream, let’s extravagantly dream. Let’s go all out with it. Let’s get a bunch of good people together, be able to sell that and articulate that, get young people to buy into it.
“Man, it’s amazing what you can do when you get a bunch of people to come together for a common purpose, singleness of purpose, one heartbeat. It’s powerful. It’s powerful. It’s what the Bible says. Two can accomplish more than, twice as much as one. Great synergy when you got a lot of people that believe in that same vision. That’s what we got at Clemson.”