Mickey Plyler Blog: Dabo Thoughts

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The following is the latest post on Mickey Plyler's blog. Plyler updates his blog at least once every weekday and it can be found on TigerNet at http://www.tigernet.com/blogs/plyler/ or on the right side of the front page of TigerNet.

As I sat in a chair on the fourth floor of the West Zone yesterday I watched something I had not seen before. In fact, it was something that many closer to Dabo had not seen yet either. We all witnessed Dabo get very emotional.

Monday about five minutes until five I walked in the first floor of the building and found Dabo, Kathleen, Will, Drew and Clay walking in right behind me. I only spoke to Dabo and Kathleen briefly to offer a quick personal greeting and congratulations. I told both how proud I was of them and how happy I was for them, the boys and their entire family. Dabo seemed to be himself and seemed very comfortable with what was about to happen to him.

But when it was his turn to speak Monday evening, to the surprise of many, Dabo showed a different side. He showed an emotional side. Words usually come easier to him.

Tyler Grisham had been with Dabo for four years and he said he had never seen that before.

Dabo finally broke down and he did it in front of thousands of people watching live on the local news channels.

Often times I couldn’t care less what people think about my perspective and try not to let most influence what my gut tells me. But as I sat there and watched Dabo fight off tears and struggle to end sentences, I was wondering if anyone else was getting this like I was.

Seven weeks earlier I watched a man hit a home run in his first news conference as he was introduced as the interim head coach of the Clemson Tigers. He woke up that morning as the wide receivers coach and later that day he was speaking in front of the media as the interim head coach. On that day, Dabo was on. He unified Clemson that day. Dabo seemed so comfortable despite being thrown into a terribly difficult situation.

October 13 was a crazy day but Dabo had a sense of calmness in the face of the storm. He said all of the right things. I was amazed that he was able to do it so smooth. It was as if he had prepared his entire life for that moment.

December 1 was not quite as crazy but Dabo’s smoothness gave way to his choking back tears. If it was as if he actually took time to reflect on his entire life.

This press conference looked different. This one was not in the warm, cozy auditorium of the McFadden building. This one was in the big, spacious and scenic West Zone.

Maybe that is why it felt different. Maybe it was the venue that symbolized the major differences in the two press conferences. The first press conference featured a picture of Death Valley on the background as Dabo talked about the interim job. Yesterday’s press conference actually featured the REAL Death Valley as the back drop. Maybe October 13’s press conference was about just the picture compared to December 1 and the real job of the Head Football Coach at Clemson University.

As Dabo fought back the tears and stopped many times to compose himself, I was wondering how this was playing out on television. Were people getting this raw emotion the way I was? Did this play out well on TV or was this awkward?

After talking to many in attendance and many who watched on TV or listened on the radio, I think most people got it too.

If you watched with an unbiased eye, I think you could see a whole lot to like. I saw a genuine and sincere person that I knew was already there. I saw a man take a look inside himself and take his time to reflect on his difficult rise to realize a dream.

I saw someone who was thankful for all that everyone had done for him and his gratitude seemed real. I saw a young man that had prepared himself professionally but one who had not had time to totally prepare himself emotionally for what was about to hit him. And Monday night, in front of thousands watching on TV, it hit him.

We all watched Monday as the man revealed even more about his long, hard road. I saw a role model for how one could handle adversity. I wrote in this blog in the days after his first press conference that Dabo had not had head coaching experience or coordinator experience but he had experience in leadership skills and in adversity.

I also saw a man that gets Clemson. Dabo said people in Clemson are just happy. He understands our village and fits right in locally. I could not help to think about the stories of his interaction with Dr. Edwards or Mac McKeown or Dr. Byron Harder or any other legends that helped shape this community.

What I have seen the last seven weeks has been amazing. In the past few years Clemson has spent a bunch of money on promotions and publicity. The university hired marketing firms and consultants to come up with a unifying theme of “One Clemson.”

Last February the president said he learned that “One Clemson” was easy to say but difficult to live. It seems to me that Dabo has not had a hard time living it. Of all of the people, time, money, energy and effort spent on unifying Clemson, none of it really worked. IPTAY knew it. The Alumni Association saw it. The board of trustees and the president heard it as well. Clemson has been divided on subjects like Top 20, tuition hikes, ICAR and athletics.

But seven weeks ago a 38-year wide receiver coach did more to unify Clemson than any marketing firm or campaign. That same man, now 39, sat on stage last night and showed us even more of himself and in the process gave us even more to be excited about. One Clemson felt so much better than now.

I have said it many times, all Dabo has to be is Dabo. That alone always has been good enough to overcome anything. He is comfortable in his own skin and he is as wholesome and as genuine as you will find. Today Clemson is better because of its 25th head football coach. Today, Dabo, Kathleen, Will, Drew and Clay have shown us another example of many of the qualities that Joe Sherman talked about when he said, "There's something in these hills.

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