Swinney's message to lawmakers: Football unifies


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Swinney poses with one of the new signs honoring the National Championship  (Photo by Jared Rogers-Martin)
Swinney poses with one of the new signs honoring the National Championship (Photo by Jared Rogers-Martin)

COLUMBIA – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was back in Baptist preacher mode Tuesday afternoon when he spoke at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia. At one point, his speech to the gathered lawmakers elicited applause and a loud amen from the crowd.

Clemson’s National Championship was honored Tuesday afternoon, and Swinney’s message was simple: Football unifies.

Tiger players Milan Richard, Richard Yeargin and Hunter Renfrow accompanied Swinney on the trip, and Swinney started the day by acknowledging the honor his team was receiving.

“I bet you never thought you’d introduce a Dabo up here,” Swinney said. “It’s great to be here today and have this opportunity to address you all. I am very aware of what a unique privilege this is.”

He then said that the trip to the title started during his first full season in 2009.

“We’ve had a lot of recognition, and we’ve traveled all over. I’ve been in 15-plus states the last few weeks, and I’ve met a lot of people, and there has been a lot of joy,” he said. “And yes, I am happy for this team but we didn’t win the National Championship starting this year. We won this starting in 09. That was our goal and vision from day one, and we haven’t strayed from our goals for this program.”

Swinney then laid out his goals for the program, goals that began after he took over for Tommy Bowden.

“First and foremost, it’s to graduate our players. We are going to graduate our players and equip them with the tools in life they need to be successful. Tools for life,” Swinney said. “We also wanted to have a program where young men come to Clemson and have a great college experience. And the last thing we have focused on is we want them to win a championship. That is the order we’ve followed over the last eight years. And as I stand before you today with a National Championship, it all started in’ 09. We are going to build championship men.

“We always say the fun is in the winning, but what I try to teach these guys is, yes the fun is in the wining, but how you win is what matters most. “I would rather lose trying to do the right thing than win doing the wrong thing.”

The most passionate part of Swinney’s speech came at the end when he talked about how football can be a large influence in the lives of young men.

“Football matters. It matters. It’s one of the last great positive influences on young people’s lives,” Swinney said. “They don’t get it from their music, their social media or other areas. In football, you have to have discipline, and put on your armor and play the next play no matter what. It’s a game of positive influence. Yes, you have bad coaches, and you have bad governors and bad preachers. But there is more good than bad, and I am here to tell you that I have seen lives changed through the game of football.

“Football matters and I want to thank you all for the investment you make, not just in Clemson but to all of the universities. You provide an opportunity for young people to get an education. If not for the vehicle of football, these young people would not be able to get an education. Football unifies in a world that is divided. Football brings race, religion, background and bank accounts together. It breaks all of that stuff down and makes them brothers.”

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