Kathleen Swinney "humbled and honored" to be a Clemson alumna


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The Swinney family rides in the National Championship parade
The Swinney family rides in the National Championship parade

The past seven months have been a whirlwind for head coach Dabo Swinney and his wife Kathleen. Wins over Ohio St. and Alabama, a National Championship and more awards and trophies than can be polished in two lifetimes.

But one special honor just means more than all the others to Kathleen.

Towards the end of the couple’s All In Ball in April, Clemson’s first football couple were brought to the stage and made honorary alumni. An emotional Kathleen, who’s used to seeing her husband reap the trophies and awards and recognition, was humbled.

“It was the second-best moment of my year. The first being winning the national championship and the second thing was being named an honorary alum,” Kathleen told TigerNet last week. “That was the biggest thrill to me and to Dabo. It was a complete surprise. We were there to raise money for the community and to have the tables turned and us getting an award was a complete surprise, but then it was just extremely thrilling. It was truly the second highlight of my year. I was just so shocked because that's something that Dabo usually gets, so for me to get it, too, I am so honored. I know it's Honorary Alum, but I am so honored and I cannot wait to hang it on the wall in my house.”

The Swinneys have been in Clemson for 15 years and during that time, Kathleen had one item on her to-do list that she hadn’t been able to check off until April – earn a Clemson diploma.

“That's our All In Ball and we're there to raise money. I had no clue in the world. Robin Wilson - one of our chairs of the ball - she knew. She had written a recommendation for me. A friend of mine, Maggie Bandy, did. I had no clue,” Kathleen said. “I think I started crying because I was so excited. I really said this means more than my Master's at Alabama. I was so excited because even since we've moved to Clemson I've been telling Dabo that maybe I need to get my Ph.D. from Clemson or go back and get a second Master's Degree. His response has always been, 'When do you have time for that?' I don't really have the time but I've always wanted a Clemson degree, so for that, it was just huge.”

Just how big of a deal was the award for the Swinneys? Kathleen was excited to join a group that includes Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman and many of the players she has seen go through Clemson’s program over the last nine years.

“He was so honored, too. We are both so honored and so humbled. We both have our Clemson degrees and we're looking for the perfect spot to hang them,” she said. “We were both so thrilled because it's so hard to get. It's not something they just dole out. I didn't realize how hard it was. It truly means the world. I told Deshaun (Watson), 'I have one like you now!' I told some of them, 'I got it before you did!' It truly means so much because we love Clemson. We've spent more time here than Tuscaloosa now. Tuscaloosa was from 18-31 (years of age), so we were there for 13 years and now this is going on our 15th year at Clemson and we're even more involved. It's a huge honor.”

Even though the new season is just around the corner, Kathleen still finds herself looking back on the 2016 and the events of the last six months and reflecting on how their lives have changed.

“I would have to say definitely our time. There's been more added to our plate but all for great reasons and great causes. It's so exciting,” she said. “We haven't done it yet, but I told the boys that we're pulling over on the side of the road and we're getting our picture made in front of the green sign. That sign, I'm so proud of it. We have the natty trophy, but we have to get a picture of the five of us in front of that sign. That thrilled me so much to see that sign. Our players and the honor they so deserved, they worked their tails off. Just to see one of my husband's dreams come to fruition. I really want to relive the year because a little bit of it is a blur. Hunter (Renfrow) was over last night eating because he and Will (the oldest Swinney son) are good friends and I was like, 'Is it still a blur?' I want to relive it but we've got to move on to 2017. “

Chances are if you’re in one of the local shops, you may run into Kathleen, who is still celebrating the national championship as she purchases the latest gear.

“Just the excitement. Going into Tiger Sports Shop or Tiger Town Graphics and the places I shop and seeing all of the national championship stuff, I'm loading up my cart,” she said. “They're like, 'Mrs. Swinney, why are you buying this stuff.' I have 10 nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and everybody wants stuff. We don't get it. I was in there in today buying something and I was like, 'This is so awesome!' Just the excitement in every story and it's really helped the whole economy of Clemson.”

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