Dreams do come true, but Tigers watching out for famed Bourbon St.


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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his wife Kathleen walk off the plane in New Orleans
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his wife Kathleen walk off the plane in New Orleans

Photo Gallery of Clemson Arrival

NEW ORLEANS, LA – An appearance in the College Football Playoff is a dream come true. Clemson’s spring dreams are coming to fruition.

No. 1 Clemson arrived in New Orleans Wednesday afternoon, and head coach Dabo Swinney said the team is going to embrace the dream.

“Really a blessing to be here. It's an honor to be at the Allstate Sugar Bowl. This is something that we set out to do,” Swinney said after the team walked off the plane. “We actually talked about it this spring, this being kind of something to dream about. 59 years since Clemson has been to the Sugar Bowl. To have an opportunity to be here and represent Clemson and Dan (Radakovich), President Clements and our administration, all of our fans is a great pleasure. It's a huge privilege. Proud of our team and the season we've had. Tremendous effort on their part all year long to do what they need to do to get this point.

“I'm just going to embrace it. I'll take a moment during pregame to enjoy it, but I'm not going to do anything different than what I did early in the season. Just continue to prepare the same way and go about it the same way. That's pretty much been the message for me and to the guys on the team as well.”

Quarterback Kelly Bryant says the team is going to have a little fun while also making sure they put in the necessary work.

“We have good energy. Everybody was ready to get down here,” Bryant said. “We put in the work up in Clemson to finally get here. We're going to try to eliminate all of the distractions but at the same time we're going to have fun down here while we're here as well, but we're down here for a game so we want to make sure that we have the mentality. It's a business trip.”

In other words, it’s a business trip for the Tigers.

“Definitely. It's a business trip so we just want to make sure everybody is where they need to be, but you don't want it to feel like you're controlling the younger guys because you want them to have the experience because you never know when you'll get back here next time,” Bryant said. “We're just going to manage it the best way possible eith th e older guys looking out for the younger guys.”

Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins says the Tigers deserve to be in the playoff.

“We're going to enjoy this. We've earned the right to be down here, but most importantly it's a business trip. Our guys are ready, focused and locked in,” Wilkins said. “We are who we are. Everybody likes to have fun and enjoy our selves, so we're going to talk. We're excited to play. We're ready to play. It's a business trip so we're ready to go.”

Alabama is the favorite despite being the number four seed.

“That's a testament to Alabama and the program they've been,” Wilkins said. “They've been the model program in college football as long as I can remember and they've earned that. They've done what they needed to do for as long as I've been watching college football so they've earned that right. We're just focused on us. We're not worried about being an underdog or Alabama - no disrespect to them - but we're just focused on what we need to do.”

Swinney said the team practiced in Clemson Wednesday before heading to the airport.

“We had good meetings today and had our Monday practice today. Everybody traveled back yesterday, and they enjoyed a good break. It’s ‘Mental Monday’ for us - get your mind right. Good meetings,” Swinney said. “Good practice. I like to do that way and then when we get here we can just get settled in and get ready for a Tuesday type practice. I want our guys to enjoy it everywhere we go and all of these bowl trips. We try to enjoy the journey. That’s what it’s all about. It will be a great moment Monday night but it’s really the journey that I try to always enjoy.

“Enjoy today and enjoy checking into the hotel and practices and just enjoy being with these guys. This could be the last week to be with this team. Hopefully, we can earn one more bus ride and pregame meal but you’ve got to earn that. I want them to enjoy it and look back on their time. We always say, ‘The fun is in the winning.’ Ultimately, it comes down to that and you want to win the game but I don’t think you’ve got to be miserable to do that in the process. It will be a great week. I’m looking forward to it.”

Swinney was asked if the team would be kept on a short leash – New Orleans is the home to Bourbon Street – and he said he wasn’t worried about his players.

“I defer to the leadership of the team. If I’ve got to worry about that right now, we’re going to get our butts kicked and we’re going home,” Swinney said. “I’m not here to babysit them. These are grown men and I treat them that way. These are grown men and I defer to the leadership of our team. If I’ve done a good enough job January to now in developing leadership, discipline and accountability and guys understanding there are consequences for your actions, then you shouldn’t have to worry about that stuff when you show up.

“Now, I’m a little concerned about the culture shock of Bourbon Street for some of these guys, having been there, so we’ll have a little chat about that. These guys are great. You’ve got guys like Christian Wilkins, Dorian O’Daniel, Kelly Bryant and Mitch Hyatt. These are the leaders of your team. It’s pretty easy. The best leadership comes from within. We’ve got curfew. They’ll have a little more time tonight and then we tighten it down as we go, but I just really count on them to do what they’re supposed to and handle their business and hold each other accountable. It’s no different when we get here. If something comes to me then they know that I’m going to deal with it. They all know there are consequences for your actions. Everbody just has to make the right decisions.”

Photo Gallery of Clemson Arrival

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