Clemson had three former players playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, cornerback Bashaud Breeland and linebacker Dorian O’Daniel all play for the Kanas City Chiefs, who are making their first trip to the Super Bowl in 50 years.
All three Tigers know what is like to take their team to new heights. Watkins and Breeland were on Clemson’s first ACC Championship team in 20 years back in 2011, as well as the program’s first 10-win team in 21 years.
O’Daniel was a part of another milestone. He was on the first Clemson team since 1981 to win a national championship back in 2016. Now, all three players have helped transform Kansas City like they did during their time at Clemson.
“From where we were in 2009, my first year, to where we are now, been in five straight playoffs, and we’ve won two out of the last four National Championships, and we’ve been in four National Championship Games. You know,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I think we’ve got 69 wins in the last five years, which is the most ever in the history of college football over that span.
“So, we’ve built a program of consistency, and that’s really what it’s about to me, and it’s not just on the field. We’ve been top 10 academically nine of my 11 years and eight out of the last nine, us, Duke and Northwestern. So, we’ve had a lot of consistency on the field and a lot of consistency off the field.”
That level of consistency has carried over with his players to the NFL, where a lot of former Tigers are having success such as Deshaun Watson, Deandre Hopkins, Grady Jarrett and the three former players who are playing in football’s biggest game on Sunday. But these guys just are not successful on the football field. They are also having a lot of success off the playing fields as well.
“That’s truly what to me matters most. We’ll have more opportunities [to play for championships]. But when I hang my whistle up, it won’t be about these moments,” Swinney said. “It’s not going to be about the confetti flying and winning a National Championship or a very disappointing painful moment where you come up short. It’s really more about the relationships that you have. That’s the true joy, just getting a chance to just come to work every day with such great people.
“I’ve got a wonderful staff that are so loyal, so committed, and just a bunch of beautiful young men that lay it on the line.”
Swinney has built Clemson into one of the strongest college football programs in the country. The Tigers just finished up the most successful decade in school history. They won a record 29 straight games over the last two years. Since November 14, 2013, the Tigers are 43-1 at Death Valley. The list of accolades can go on and on and on.
“I mean, we won 29 games in a row, and sooner or later you’re going to lose one. This certainly wasn’t the one we wanted to lose, but I know how we’ll respond,” Swinney said. “We’ll get back to work. You can’t win two until you win one, so we’ll get back to work and see if we can come back and have a great year next year and really just try to achieve our goals. We’ve got five simple goals and they don’t change.
“[Losing in the national championship] doesn’t change our goals. The last goal we have is to win the closer, and we hit four out of our five. We didn’t get that one done. But I’m just really proud of this group for how they competed and what they did on and off the field.”
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