The Paw is Flying On Top of the Mountain


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Dabo Swinney celebrates the National Championship
Dabo Swinney celebrates the National Championship

TAMPA, FL – The paw is flying on top of the mountain.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, usually not at a loss for words, cradled the Dr. Pepper National Championship Trophy in the postgame melee early Tuesday morning, and he marveled over the journey that took him from a walk-on wide receiver at Alabama to a title-winning coach.

Clemson defeated Alabama 35-31 Monday night at Raymond James Stadium, a game Swinney doubts he will be able to watch for a few days.

“You know, I mean, I don't know if I can – I don't know if I'm going to be able to stomach watching that one any time soon,” Swinney said. “That has to be one of the greatest games of all time, just absolutely incredible, to have to take the field and go down the field to win the game, that's what it's made of. That's what I told 'em when it was over. This is what it's all about right here, boys. They fought. They fought for every play, and I just – I said it out on the field, and I'll say it again: For me personally, only God can do this. I mean, there's just no other explanation for me. It's not anything to do with me. It's God working through me and the staff and these players.”

The journey started eight years ago, when a wide receivers coach with no coordinator or head coaching experience was handed the keys to Clemson’s program.

“Eight years ago our goal was to work our tails off and eventually get Clemson back on top, and tonight that's a reality. It truly is,” Swinney said. “The paw is flying on top of that mountain tonight. We saw the top of it last year, didn't get quite there. Tonight we took that next step. It was really the only thing we hadn't done in the last eight years, and we got it done.”

Swinney said the championship belongs to all of Clemson.

“As I said earlier, it's not just for this team, it's a credit to all my teams, all my players,” he said. “They all share in this moment. They truly do. They truly do. Because what they did was meant for them at that time, but this was meant for this team. This was this team's responsibility. This was this team's mission, and there was really only one lid left on the program, and that was to win the whole dadgum thing.

"Now that one has been knocked off, and I just am so proud of these players. When I came to Clemson as an assistant, I saw the – the theme of the playoffs was chasing greatness, right? That's what it was. And when I came to Clemson as an assistant, I truly saw the greatness and the potential of Clemson University.”

He hopes the journey is just beginning.

“I can't tell you how humbled I am, blessed and so thankful to be a part of helping get Clemson back on top, this moment, 35 years, and doing something that a lot of people didn't think we could do,” Swinney said. I'm just so thankful for that opportunity, and I'm excited about continuing to help Clemson be the best. I truly am. We're going to work our tail off. As I said out there earlier, one thing about our team is once we've done something once, we've done it again. We needed to win one division; we've done it five times. We've done many things many times, but this one we hadn't, and hopefully we can win a few more before they put me out to pasture. But I'm just so thankful.”

Clemson had just 47 yards at the end of the first quarter, but wound up with 99 plays and 511 total yards.

“Alabama, they're a challenge. They played a lot of two man. We just kind of hung in there,” Swinney said. “We made some mistakes, really played great defense outside of about three plays, four plays, and a great drive by them there at the end. Unbelievable play to get the first down there. But at the end of the day, we had one second, and we got it done with one second left, and we're the national champs. To God be the glory.”


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