Christmas in Dallas: Tigers preparing to spend the holiday away from home
|Monday, December 17, 2018, 1:34 PM- -|
CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is no stranger to spending the holidays away from home. His son Will’s first Christmas was spent in a hotel room in Dallas, and father and son will spend this Christmas together in Dallas as the Tigers prepare for the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame.
Spending the holidays away from loved ones can be difficult, but Swinney already has a schedule laid out that he hopes takes the sting out of missing Christmas at home and ends with a win against the Fighting Irish.
Clemson will practice three days this week before heading to Dallas Sunday.
“We will finish here Wednesday afternoon. We have 12 or so guys that will graduate on Thursday, but our players will be off Thursday, Friday, and Saturday,” Swinney said. “It isn't a very long break because we are going to meet at 11:30 Sunday morning, have a quick meeting, a light practice inside here and then we will load up and leave here and we will pull out and head to the airport and head to Dallas. We will get out there and get situated and will have a staff meeting when we get to Dallas to get all of the logistical stuff out of the way.
“And then we will have a true game week - it's all the right days this year, it all worked out. Monday is actually Monday. We will have a good Monday practice, and then Tuesday we will wake up and have a nice Christmas celebration and kind of a program for that. We will then throw on some pads and have a practice that afternoon. That is what we do, so we will go out there and have fun.”
Swinney said his wife Kathleen will be in charge of a Christmas program for the coaches and players.
“We will have a nice Christmas program for all the families. We will have some fun,” he said. “Probably have a few performances and things like that. We will celebrate it and make sure we have ample time dedicated to that. And then we will have meetings and practice that afternoon.”
The Tigers are no stranger to the College Football Playoff, and Swinney hopes they can take that experience and use it to their advantage over the next 12 days.
“We have learned a lot. It definitely helps, not only the players but us coaches as far as how we handle our prep and manage our installation. We don't want to peak too soon,” Swinney said. “Try to not do too much, and how we handle our schedule at the site and so forth. That is all critical. But as far as tweaking anything, we aren't tweaking a whole lot. We believe in our plan. The only thing that's different this year is that the schedule has changed. This is the earliest this game has been. So that is different - we haven't played this early since the Russell Athletic Bowl. We will be there for Christmas.”
Swinney then reminisced about Will’s first Christmas – Swinney was on the staff at Alabama when the team played in the 1998 Music City Bowl against Virginia Tech. The game was played in rain and sleet and freezing temperatures.
“When you grow up with traditions in your family, it's nice to get home and have those moments but we won’t have that this year,” Swinney said. “Will, when he was a baby, his first Christmas we had in a hotel in Nashville. We had a little bitty tree on our bedside table there. His very first Christmas, and I will never forget it. We were playing Virginia Tech in the Ice Bowl - it was awful. It's different but you just embrace it. It's a blessing. I am thankful we are getting an opportunity. It is what it is. It's neat. We spend Thanksgiving together every year with the team. So this will be one of those unique experiences.
“My first time as a player - in the 1991 Blockbuster Bowl - was the first time I had never been home for Christmas. I will never forget it. You are calling grandma and calling to see what is going on and what everybody is doing. You are thinking about all of your routines at home. And me and my roommate are in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., looking at each other. But I will never forget that. That was such a cool experience for me. We will make it a great day and at the end of the day it's about winning the game.”