Tigers arrive in Arizona, ready to climb the mountain


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Dabo Swinney takes a photo of the crowd
Dabo Swinney takes a photo of the crowd

PHOENIX, AZ – The Clemson football team arrived at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix Monday afternoon, the mountains in the distance framing the perfect backdrop for a team that wants to finish climbing college football’s biggest mountain this season.

The team walked off of the Delta charter as an all-female mariachi band played at the bottom of the stairs. Head coach Dabo Swinney, running back Wayne Gallman and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins met briefly with the media, and Swinney said all of his players made the trip.

“Everybody made the trip that I know of. I don't think we left anybody back there. I was on one, so unless someone missed the flight (there were two planes) or the other one,” Swinney said. “Everybody was there. We had a couple of days off for Christmas break and a lot of guys traveling. We had a team meeting this morning and everybody was there early and ready to go. We had good meetings and an excellent Monday-type practice. We're off to a good start.”

Swinney said he is excited to see a little more of Arizona than he did last year when the Tigers dashed in and out of town for the National Championship.

“We're right off the plane and excited to be here. It really is fun to be back in Arizona and fun to be here for longer than 48 hours,” he said. “It seems like when we came in for the National Championship last year, I really don't remember much about it. It was such a blur. I'm excited for not only myself but these players to have a great opportunity to have great preparation here but also experience a new part of the country. We didn't get to do a whole lot when we were out here except get ready to play the game, so we're really ready to go. We had a good practice this morning in Clemson.”

The team arrived as the sun set over the mountains, with the temperature hovering in the upper 50’s. Temps are supposed to climb this week and Swinney said the weather is a major plus.

“Believe it or not, it was hot back in Clemson, so it's good to get back out here and enjoy some good weather. We've had great preparation,” he said. “This is game week and one day under our belt. We're very appreciative of the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl folks and all of the committee and volunteers and everybody who does so much to make this a great event and a great experience for everyone involved, especially the opportunity to practice where we're practicing. It's a great venue for us. It's an incredible stadium that we get to play in. We're just looking forward to it. We look forward to spending the week with all of you.”

He was asked if the Tigers are here to finish, and he said that while the Tigers want to win, it’s a different team.

“That was last year. Different team. Unfortunately, a lot of those guys aren't with us anymore. We missed an opportunity last year and certainly had a chance to win it all. We didn't quite finish like we needed to and give Alabama the credit for that,” he said. “They earned it. This is a new team, new season and it's a new opportunity. As I always say, last year's success doesn't get it done this year. You've got to earn it all over again. This is the Playoff. This is the bowl experience, the Playoff and the opportunity to earn another game. You've got to win this one to get another one. For us, it's a great opportunity and a huge challenge with Ohio State. We all know what type of program they are and the coaches. We're looking forward to it, this is what it's all about.”


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