When he played for Dabo Swinney from 2009-’12, Dalton Freeman saw the vision for the Clemson Football Program. However, the former All-American center, who now lives and works in Anderson, S.C., admits he did not see all that has happened.
“I think Swinney is the only one who dreamed big enough to see exactly what has transpired,” Freeman said to The Clemson Insider. “We believed it was possible. We knew we had every opportunity and reason to win, but I think I would be lying if I said I saw it going exactly as it has gone the past couple of years.”
Obviously, it has gone well.
The Tigers have won two national championships since 2015 and played for the tile two other times. Clemson is the only team that has gone to the College Football Playoff six straight years, while winning the ACC in each of those six seasons.
“We are just so proud of him,” Freeman said. “It starts with Swinney carrying more about you as a person than as a player. They are winning off the field just as much as they are winning on the field.”
The Tigers won a lot when Freeman was snapping the football, too. He was a part of the first Clemson team that advanced to the ACC Championship Game in 2009, and then was on the team in 2011 that won Clemson’s first ACC Championship in 20 years.
Freeman’s Tigers went 36-18 in his four seasons. They won or tied for the ACC Atlantic Division title three times and played for the conference crown twice. He was also on the first Clemson team in 21 years to win 10 games in a season and then the first one since 1981 to win at least 11 games.
He was also a part of the first Orange Bowl team since 1982 and was a part of the Tigers’ dramatic come-from-behind victory over LSU in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl, his last game at Clemson.
Like he does now, Swinney preached to Freeman and his teammates about seeing the future and where they wanted to be as individuals, but also where they wanted the program to be. Having belief in yourself and in your teammates is big a part of Swinney’s motivation and the foundation of the Clemson program.
“(Swinney) is very believable. I don’t know if we were all gullible or if he just had a great message, but he really just cares more about you as a person, and I think that is what is so contagious,” Freeman said. “It became a family atmosphere, where we were going to do the little things right and he never wavered from that. It did not matter what the situation was, it was never about football completely.
“It was more about the big picture. Making you a better husband, a better father, and a better man. I think that was what was really contagious with us and why we had so much success.”
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