Every Clemson fan knows Dabo Swinney’s life story, or at least some part of it.
Swinney, Clemson’s energetic and passionate football coach, who never appears to let anything keep him down for too long, opened up a little bit about the secret of his success Monday night when a young caller asked him about it during his weekly call-in show.
Jordan, from the Isle of Palms in South Carolina, is turning 15 years old today and she wanted to know what today’s Dabo Swinney would tell 15-year old Dabo Swinney he has learned throughout his life.
“It is hard to have this perspective at fifteen, but you can take it from me, there are going to be some long, long days along your journey, but the years are so, so short. It is all good. Enjoy your journey,” Swinney said.
As most know, Swinney grew up in an unstable home. His father was an alcoholic and the family went through some struggles. His parents eventually divorced, and he and his mother were homeless for a while.
But thanks to friends, family members and coaches, Swinney persevered through it all and is now considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of college football.
But the path to get there was not easy.
“The most important thing is you were created on purpose,” Swinney told Jordan. “You have a thumb print. There are billions of people in this world, and you are the only one with your thumb print. And God intended it to be that way, so you are the only one that can leave the imprint that He has given you.
“If you will build your life on a foundation of faith, then you will know true peace and happiness. If you build it on anything else, or seek happiness in anything else, then you are going to always be let down.”
Swinney’s faith helped him overcome the fact he had no money to attend college, yet he found a way to get into his dream school at the University of Alabama. Swinney was not offered a football scholarship, yet he walked on and earned a spot on the team. He eventually earned a scholarship and started in Alabama’s 1992 National Championship win over Miami in the Sugar Bowl.
Those opportunities led Swinney into coaching where he stayed on at Alabama for the next eight years as a graduate student and then as an assistant coach.
“One of my favorite verses in the bible is Jeremiah 29:11. When I was 15 I had a lot of, man there was a lot of anxiety and like ‘What is my future and how am I going to do this and that?’ But Jeremiah 29:11 says, ‘For I know the plans I have for you.’ Not that I think I know,” Swinney said. “God says, ‘For I know the plans I have for–not everyone–for you.’ Those are plans for good, not disaster. Plans to give you a future and a hope.
“I love that Bible verse because if you really grab on to that, you are going to have some challenges, you are going to have some disappointments, you are going to have some setbacks, you are going to have some failures and you are going to have some successes, but if you can hang on to that, God never says ‘Oops!’ God never says, ‘My Bad!’ Then again, if there is hope in the future, then there is power in the present to deal with whatever comes your way. There is nothing that is going to happen to you that you and God can’t handle together.”
Swinney lost his job at Alabama following the 2000 season after the whole staff was fired. He spent the next two years out of football. He landed on his feet though, selling commercial real estate where he made a great living.
In 2003, he was given the opportunity to get back in football when Tommy Bowden offered him to join his staff at Clemson as the wide receivers’ coach. Five years later, Swinney was running the Clemson program and 138 wins and two national championships later, he is considered one of the best coaches the game has ever seen.
“That is what I would want someone to come down and sit the old 15-year old version of me down and say. ‘Don’t worry. It is not going to add anything to your life. Just do the best you can with what you got. That is what the happiest people in the world do. They take what they have and do the best they can with it. That is what life is about.’”
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