Jeff Scott was out getting sandwiches when his life changed forever.
It was October 13, 2008 when he saw Dabo Swinney was calling his cellphone.
“He called me and said, ‘Hey! Where are you at?’ I said, ‘Well, I am down here getting subs,” Scott recalled from the conversation. “I was a graduate assistant, so I was getting subs for all the coaches and he said, ‘You need to come to my office.’ He said, ‘Alright, I got this interim (job). I am not sure what kind of chance I have, but I am going to hire you to be the wideout coach and you are going to do a great and if I get it, I am going to keep you.’”
Scott was so excited. He went home and told his wife, Sara, all about it. Growing up the son of a college coach, Scott knew how hard it was to get a job as an assistant coach at a school like Clemson.
However, Scott’s excitement was tempered just a little when he saw the ticker scrolling at the bottom of the television set on ESPN. It said, “Clemson wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney named interim head coach.” Then it went on to say, “0 of the last 29 mid-season interim head coaches went on to be named full-time head coach.”
“So, I paused for a minute and then I looked over to Sara and said, ‘Hey! One out of thirty, them at bad odds,” Scott said during his introductory press conference at South Florida on Wednesday. “So, literally, to go from that moment, watching Coach Swinney as a tryout coach to now being one of the best in modern day college football, I have had a front row seat.
“But not only that, he allowed me a lot of responsibility, being his first recruiting coordinator for six years and then promoting myself and Tony (Elliott) to co-offensive coordinators. Just being on the road with him, he would always take time. ‘Hey! You are going to be a great head coach one day and when you do, these are things you need to be thinking about.’”
Scott said there were a lot of things that Swinney shared with him about being a head coach, but more than anything just observing Swinney in those team meeting rooms and the way he coached and how he handled his players and coaches are things he learned the most from Dabo Swinney.
“I think the number one ting that he did, he changed the way our players thought, that mindset,” Scott said. “Before Coach Swinney took over, we would go into some big games and we would hope to win. Then he changed that mindset where we believed. We expected to win. It wasn’t about our opponent.
“It is not about who we play. W-H-O. It is about how we play. H-O-W. When you shift that focus to yourself and to your standard, then you have consistency. So, just all of those meetings and being able to see it, and trust me, whenever I started there at Clemson in 2008, it did not look the way it looks right now.”
One of the pivotal moments in Scott’s time under Swinney came in 2010. Scott called it one of those “God winks,” when the Tigers lost to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte.
“That was really a time when Coach Swinney made some changes. Brought in Chad Morris and really the rest is history,” Scott said. “I have been able to watch the trials that have been there and the adversity. I could not have asked for better mentor.
“There is no doubt. I would not be standing here if I had not been around Coach Swinney for the last 12 years.”
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