God & Dabo, The True Heartbeat of the Clemson Tigers

Written by Adrian Beecher
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney addressing the media during a press conference ahead of the National Championship game.  (Photo Credit: Joe Klawe / The SkyBoat)
Paradise Valley, AZ – The game of football is about passion, heart, the will to exceed expectations and the ability to work together as a team. For the Clemson Tigers and head coach Dabo Swinney, it goes deeper than that. For them, God is the way to success and without that faith, football wouldn’t even matter.

“Everyday in team meetings he (Coach Dabo) gives us a bible verse or something just to keep us going.  Whenever we’re down, he brings us up with faith, all the time.” Said Tigers outside linebacker Jalen Williams of his head coach.

Williams says Swinney’s faith in God is one of the things that got him to go to Clemson. And this is a common theme with many of the players on the Clemson roster.

Freshman safety Tanner Muse acknowledges that Coach Swinney’s faith is what brought him to the university.

“I think it brings a lot of guys in, I know it brought me in and a lot closer to him. Just being able to know that I will have that relationship with the Lord, and him being able to connect. I think that it’s wonderful that he expresses that and just being able to connect with him on that level is really nice.”

Being able to connect with players from a football perspective is one thing, but connecting on a personal level became important, as one’s faith is shared with another. It’s the ability to influence his players in these ways off the field that coach Dabo hold’s near to his heart.

“That’s just what I tell my staff all the time. If they leave our program and all they know is how to sack a quarterback, cover a wideout or run a ball or throw a ball or catch a ball, then we lose, and we’ve failed at our job.” Said Dabo during the final press conference ahead of the National Championship game.

Discipline and integrity instilled in players are true testaments to Dabo’s coaching ability. It has been a key asset that has helped him lead his Clemson Tigers to their first National Championship appearance since 1981. But its about more than a title game – it’s about ensuring that the people that come through the Clemson program leave with more than just wins and losses.

“I always tell these guys, you know, I don’t always like them, but I always love them, kind of like my kids. I care more about – I’m going to meet them all when they’re 35, Lord willing, and I care more about that meeting when they are 35 than I do how they feel right now, because that to me is the true test of a coach, is when you meet that guy at 30and 35, does he turn and go the other way, or does he come and hug your neck.”

“When he really knows what life is about and he’s got the family and he’s had a lot of adversity and he’s been out there in the real world and really understands, does he have an appreciation for the things that you tried to teach him in that small span, but such a critical time in all these young peoples’ lives. Four or five years is such a moment, it really is a moment, but it’s so critical, and I just take a lot of pride in that.”

Any person can coach a football team, but to lead young men on the path of integrity, passion and faith, is a true skill. The words of his players are a true testament to the connection that and care that Dabo has for his team.

Monday night will be just a moment in these young men’s lives. But when they look back on this moment in 10 to 15 years, they will know that they made the right choice going to Clemson to be a part of the Tiger Family. The hug’s for Dabo will come in bunches, not for the National Title run, but for the care, passion and true love that he has for his players.

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