Saban praises Swinney's loyalty to Alabama, Clemson

Photo of Saban praises Swinney's loyalty to Alabama, Clemson

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will have a second crack at taking down his alma mater in the national championship game Monday against Alabama.

Swinney, an Alabama native, walked on to the Crimson Tide team in 1989, before earning a scholarship as a wide receiver and playing three seasons - capped off with a national championship in 1992.

"I always tell everybody, I was a crawl-on. I was one notch below a walk-on. I crawled on the field out there," Swinney recalled of his time at Alabama. "They didn't invite me to come out. But it was an unbelievable experience for me. My very first spring in the fall of '88, I was in the weight room, and went through this - they'd put us all in jail today, this program.

"But to get to go out that spring and be a part of the Crimson Tide was unbelievable for me. I mean, grew up in a small town, first one to go off to college, and I was one of those kids that watched the Bear Bryant Show every Sunday, and every time Alabama was on or on the radio, I was listening, fight you in school if you talked bad about them."

That passion led to Swinney becoming a graduate assistant at Alabama, before being hired as a wide receivers coach in 1996. Swinney would spend a decade in Tuscaloosa, before moving to Clemson in 2003 and eventually being promoted to head coach in 2009.

"I wasn't happy to leave," Swinney said of going to Clemson. "I was mad at the time. I was not happy. But God had a plan for me, and he knew what I needed. I had never really been anywhere but the state of Alabama, and to have to pack up my family and move to South Carolina, to Clemson, it was great for my family. The grandparents didn't like me very much taking all the kids away, but it was a great opportunity to kind of have a new chapter and learn different things and be exposed to different things."

That loyalty to his home state and alma mater has not gone unnoticed, especially by Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

"I think Dabo has done an outstanding job of managing the situation that he's in, in a very competitive program that he's done a great job in," Saban said. "I really appreciate the way he has managed his loyalty to his alma mater, but done a great job at Clemson at the same time, and never seems to be in conflict."

If there was ever someone Alabama fans could support winning a national championship outside of the Crimson Tide, it would probably be their native son, Swinney.

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