Don't Miss Practice: Dabo Swinney learns painful lesson at Alabama


by - Senior Writer -
Dabo Swinney hates to be late, and with good reason.
Dabo Swinney hates to be late, and with good reason.

On a fall day in 1989, an exhausted walk-on wide receiver out of Pelham, Alabama, tried to walk off of the University of Alabama practice field after a grueling practice session in which he was punished for missing a scrimmage. His teammates, seeing his anguish, eventually had to carry him off the field, but a young Dabo Swinney has never forgotten the lessons he learned.

Swinney is a stickler for being on time, and he’s known for his work ethic. While much of that is something he was born with, there was one day back in the fall of 1989 that changed not only his outlook but also allowed him to earn the respect of his teammates and coaches.

It was not an easy lesson to learn, as Swinney detailed on a recent episode of ChumChat with Tanner Tessmann (and given to TigerNet).

“In those days, if you weren't traveling, we would have a full scrimmage on Friday at 5:30 AM in full pads. It was crazy,” Swinney said. “They would put us in jail if we tried to do something like that now. If you were a non-traveler, you had to come over there at 5:30 and put on full pads, on the turf, every Friday we would do this. And the coaches would be there. Somehow, one Friday morning that same fall (1989), I am a redshirt freshman, and I wake up at 7 AM. You know that feeling? My heart just dropped. And then I was like, they won't even notice I wasn't there. They won't miss me. Who am I? They won't care. There are 115 people and they won't miss me.”

He was wrong. Very, very wrong.

“So I went that next Monday to practice - it's a light day. They had played the game, and nobody said anything to me,” Swinney said. “Nothing. And I was like, alright, I am good. So then Tuesday we are in full pads and I am in flex and we are stretching and all of a sudden the strength coach comes over - Rich Wingo, the same guy that hired me in my real estate life years later, the same guy I go to work for in 2001 - and he comes over to me in flex, this former Green Bay Packers linebacker, and says, 'Mr. Swinney, you will be with me when flex is over.' And I am like, 'yes sir.'

“And the entire practice, I am in full pads, and he literally tried to run me off. He told me, he said, 'I am going to try and run you off today.' It was unbelievable, and it's a miracle that I lived to be honest with you. I think about that now, and I would be sued so bad if I did something like that. My teammates kind of carried me off the field and into the locker room.”

His efforts earned him the respect of his fellow players and coaches.

“In fact, I think that day was one of the days that I probably earned a lot of respect because he really did try to run me off,” Swinney said. “And the next day, I couldn't go to class the whole next day. I was sore and I was exhausted. But I come to practice the next day, and the same thing - I am in flex line - and Coach Wingo comes up to me and he says, 'Mr. Swinney, I want you to come lead us in flex today.' Here I am, a redshirt freshman walk-on that nobody knows, and here I am in front of the team leading us in jumping jacks and all of that. That was one of those moments where I was really tested, and I didn't quit. I hung in there. I was only with Coach Wingo that fall of 1989 and I didn't see him again until 2001, but I think that was something that resonated with him years later.”

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