ATLANTA — Dabo Swinney was a proud football coach on Thursday night.
Clemson’s head coach walked proudly down the red carpet as he had two Tigers—defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and running back Travis Etienne—up for two prestigious honors at ESPN’s College Football Awards Show at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Wilkins was up for two awards—the Outland Trophy and the Bednarik Award, while Etienne was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the nation’s best running back.
“They are both amazing players and they even better young men,” Swinney said on the red carpet prior to the show.
Wilkins and Etienne marked the first time Clemson had two players representing it at the awards show in Atlanta. Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was a finalist for multiple awards in 2015 and ’16.
“Christian will have his master’s degree next week and he did that in three and a half years,” Swinney said. “He is a three-time All-American and he is one of the most dynamic young people that I have ever been around.
“Travis is like lightning in a bottle. He is still just now trying to figure it out. He still does not know he is a great player. But he is a great player and he has just such a sweet and humble spirit.”
Clemson has already won three national awards prior to Thursday night’s show in Atlanta. Wilkins won the Campbell Award on Wednesday, given to the nation’s best scholar athlete, while Hunter Renfrow won the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation’s most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.
“I think it is special to them. They did not come back for individual awards, but it is a buy product of that commitment, so it is great to be able to see them have this moment,” Swinney said.
On Thursday, defensive end Clelin Ferrell was named the recipient of the Ted Hendricks Award which goes to the nation’s best defensive end.
“That is great. It’s recognition for their hard work and recognition for the team,” Swinney said. “Just like being up in New York the other night. We saw Christian basically win the academic Heisman. That was amazing, and to hear him thank all of his teammates. It is just awesome.
“To see Travis on this stage and Clelin winning the Hendricks Award and obviously Mitch (Hyatt) winning the Jacobs Trophy, obviously it is very fitting to them because those guys are the epitome of selfless team players. They’re guys that are not out there campaigning for awards or anything like that, but good things come to those who put in the work.”
Clemson (13-0) finished the year ranked No. 2 in the College Football Playoff and will play No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29 in the semifinals. It’s the fourth straight year Clemson has advanced to the CFP after winning a fourth straight ACC Championship.
“We have had a great year. Every year is different,” Swinney said. “We are really just thankful to have an opportunity. We have had a great group of players and staff that have put in a lot of work and sacrifice and it means we have the opportunity to climb the mountain and compete for the overall championship.
“So, we are excited. We won our league, and this gives us another opportunity.”