One of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s mantras is “the fun is in the winning.” That fun — and the goal of it — certainly wasn’t contained to the locker room over the 14-win campaign.
“Mostly, what I’m going to remember about this team is how we won, how they prepared,” Swinney said last week at the team banquet. “How they played the game. That’s what I’m going to remember more than anything. These guys took hold of that and took pride in how they played, how they prepared, and how they served each other and cared for each other. How we also won off the field.
“These seniors chose to think the right way and they embraced the opportunity to bring joy to others. And they had a heck of a lot of fun doing it. One of the things we tried to do this season was to be very purposeful in making sure we enjoy the journey.
“That these guys had some fun along the way, and I don’t have any doubt that we had a ball all the way to the last day. We had a lot of fun doing what we did.”
Having just wrapped a seventh full season as Clemson’s head coach, Swinney had some stories in cementing his point. He contrasted Clemson and his alma mater, Alabama, where he saw “entitlement” and “an expectation” at that level and “an appreciation” in Clemson.
Swinney told a story of a Clemson fan in Augusta battling cancer, recalling a letter that said, “Coach, the best chemo I’ve had all year is watching y’all play. No chemo has done for me what watching y’all play has done.”
“Powerful, that we can have a platform and play a game and bring that type of joy to people,” Swinney said.
And the Clemson coach told another story of meeting a player’s mom at the ER, and while talking with her, another fan being helped around, doing a double-take when seeing Swinney and saying “Coach Swinney! Hell of a year man, hell of a year!” — high-fiving him.
Anecdotes like those reaffirm Swinney’s vision and view of the program, winning “on and off the field.”
“I told the team the next day that you’ve got to understand the opportunity you have to bring joy to people by how we play the game,” he said. “That’s what I’ll always remember about these guys. We didn’t play perfect, but we played with passion, played with toughness, played with heart. We played with guts, and that’s what it’s all about.”