Clemson’s visit to the White House on Monday to commemorate its first national championship since 1981 won’t be Dabo Swinney’s first celebration in the home and workplace of the president.
The Tigers’ coach went there with the 1992 Alabama squad that won it all when Swinney played receiver for the Crimson Tide.
That gave him a “tremendous experience that I’ll never forget,” and something to impress upon his players as a can’t-miss event.
“Nowadays everybody tries to make everything political,” Swinney said last week on the “David Glenn Show.” “This isn’t a political trip. This isn’t a fundraiser for a certain party or candidate. This is a celebration of what our team achieved last year. It’s been a national tradition for a long, long time.”
Clemson went 13-1 in 2016 and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff, where it defeated Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and Alabama in the national championship game in dramatic fashion to claim the title.
While the exact guest list is unknown, Swinney said “most everybody” is attending the trip. However, he expects some of the former players currently in the NFL to miss out as they’re participating in organized team activities this week with their respective pro teams.
“They’re working. They’ve got a job,” Swinney said. “It’s up to each one of them to try to work it out with their particular teams if they want to try to come.”
Two players who lucked out are quarterback Deshaun Watson and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins. Both were key components to Clemson’s historic 2016 run.
Watson threw for 4,593 yards and accounted for 50 touchdowns as the Heisman Trophy runner-up. Watkins led the Tigers’ defense with 10.5 sacks.
The Houston Texans drafted both last month. Owner Bob McNair, a South Carolina graduate, is flying the former Clemson stars to Washington, D.C., to participate in the day’s events before they return to OTAs.
Linebacker Ben Boulware, who signed a free-agent deal with the Carolina Panthers, said last month he was planning to attend.
Swinney mentioned that players from farther away could have a hard time getting there. Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley was drafted by Miami. Tight end Jordan Leggett (New York Jets) and running back Wayne Gallman (New York Giants) are much closer to D.C., but it’s unknown whether they can attend. Receiver Mike Williams was injured during a workout with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Tigers, which last went to the White House when Ronald Reagan was in office, will be honored by President Donald Trump at 3 p.m. Monday. It will be televised on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
“It’s a unique experience,” Swinney said.
The team also will make a trip to the Capitol to see where the U.S. Congress meets before flying back to South Carolina later in the day.
“It’s going to be a great trip,” Swinney said. “Looking forward to it and just spending time with that team one more time and reflecting on that great accomplishment.”