TAMPA----So who is this guy, this football coach who is one win away from being part of a select group of coaches who win national championships?
Who is this guy named William Christopher Swinney, who has become a rock star head coach at Clemson?
Who is this kid from Pelham, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, who became Dabo Swinney, after his old brother (by 15 months) started calling the new kid on the block, ""that boy'', which became Dat Boy, which became "Dabo''?
Who is this former wide receiver, who was born and bred an Alabama fan and described the start of his career at Alabama more than 25 years ago in the following way on Sunday, ""I always tell everybody, I was a crawl on,'' said Swinney. ""I was one notch below a walk on. I crawled on the field out there''?[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Who was so poor at one time, that he used the promotion for a new Discover card being offered to college students? At the time, Swinney had not paid his tuition and was behind in his rent and was fearful he would have to drop out of school. When he found the Discover card had a $1,000 limit, Swinney used the card to remain at Alabama.
Who is this 47-year old coach who has made Clemson a destination job, while hardly ever acting his age? "It's been an awesome journey,'' said Swinney. "I wouldn't change anything. I'm 46 (now 47) and I still feel like I'm 17, 27 sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I'm 67. It just depends on what's going on and what the day is. It's been a great journey. To grow up in Alabama, I lived there for 33 years. That's the only place I ever lived. And to grow up dreaming of going to Alabama and playing there, never really dreamed of coaching until I finished playing and to have the opportunity to coach there for eight years (on former Alabama coach Gene Stallings staff) and then come to place like Clemson where there's been incredible Alabama ties, it's just crazy.''
Who is this guy who is as comfortable in his own skin as any coach in college football, but who has always had to earn what he has achieved, dating back to childhood? ""I started cleaning gutters when I was 14,'' Swinney said, explaining one of his many ventures, which also included one 2-year stretch when he was out of coaching, "me and Les Daniels, my buddy. We couldn't drive at the time, so we'd carry a ladder and a bowl and a rake and knock on people's doors and clean their gutters and get real good at it. I was still cleaning gutters a couple of weeks before I got hired by Coach Stallings full time, because we didn't get to go to a bowl in *95 and I had just finished my MBA and I was cleaning gutters. It's just what I needed to do. It was a great way to make some money.''
Who is this coach who, after losing last year's championship game to Alabama, was comforted somewhat by Alabama coach Nick Saban after the game with a prediction that Clemson would be back on the main stage, sooner, rather than later. ""It was a game that could have gone either way,'' said Swinney, who then explained that he and Saban were again together last spring in Florida as guests of a mutual friend on a dinner cruise. ""I showed up and right out of the gate when we got on the boat he (Saban) was there and I said, all right, let's get the elephant out the room. I got him a nice dinner certificate to the Temptations, which is our favorite restaurant at the place we vacation, I wrote on (the certificate)" See you in Tampa next year.''
Who is this coach not named Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, who over the last 30 games has watched his team compile a record of 28-2 (Topped only by Alabama's 29-1) and became the first Clemson coach in history to compile 6 seasons of 10 or more wins? ""I think Clemson and what Dabo has done with his program there is one of the top college football programs in the country,'' said Saban. "They do an outstanding job of recruiting. The do an outstanding job of coaching. They do an outstanding job of developing players. I can't tell you how much respect for the job that they do.''
Who is this person who has not tried to avoid the pressure of going into games as the favorite almost every time they play? Just ask Swinney about his trip last summer where he met Cubs Manager Joe Madden for the first time. ""They (Cubs) knew they had the best team and I think they embraced that,'' said Swinney. Don't run from that. It kind of resonated with me and when I came back that was one of the things I came back and told the guys on day one, listen, everybody has been telling us we're this target, but for us at Clemson, best is the standard. So if Clemson is the target, best is the standard.''
Who is this philosopher/coach who has already provided a path for the future if Clemson does break the Alabama dynastic run of four national championships in 7 years and goes into the game on Monday night with a 26 game winning streak? 'If we can win this thing tomorrow, it's not like our final destination,'' said Swinney, ""like we just hang up our cleats and walk away. You're always trying to get better.''[/membership]