Summer 2024

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's advice to 15-year-old: 'Build your life on a foundation of faith'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has established himself as one of the greatest coaches in his era, if not all of college football history. He took over the reigns at Clemson in 2008, and his teams have won double-digit games every season since 2011. The Tigers, currently No. 3 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, have won two of the past four national championships, and have appeared in four of the past five CFP National Championship Games.

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All the while, Swinney has never been one to shy away from sharing about his faith in Christ. In fact, after winning his second title with Clemson in January 2019, becoming the first undefeated champion in the playoff era (15-0), Swinney was interviewed on the field by ESPN and wasted no time in praising God.

“To get to do it once and then get to do it again, it’s a blessing,” Swinney said that night. “It’s just simply the grace of the good Lord to allow us experience something like this. … All the credit, all the glory goes to the good Lord — No. 1. And No. 2, to these young people.”

This week, in his weekly call-in radio show “Tiger Calls,” Swinney wasted little time in sharing about his faith when asked by a 15-year-old boy, Jordan from the Isle of Palms in South Carolina, about the secret to his success. Jordan wanted to know what today’s Dabo would tell a 15-year-old Dabo about what he’s learned in life.

“There are going to be some long, long days along your journey,” Swinney began, as detailed by The Clemson Insider, “but the years are so, so short. It is all good. Enjoy your journey.”

The coach then spoke about purpose.

“The most important thing is you were created on purpose,” Swinney told Jordan. “You have a thumb print. There are billions of people in this world, and you are the only one with your thumb print. And God intended it to be that way, so you are the only one that can leave the imprint that He has given you.

“If you will build your life on a foundation of faith, then you will know true peace and happiness. If you build it on anything else, or seek happiness in anything else, then you are going to always be let down.”

The Clemson Insider noted that Swinney’s childhood was tough. His father was an alcoholic, his parents divorced, and Dabo and his mother spent time without a home. Dabo didn’t have money to attend college, but he walked on to the football team at Alabama, eventually earned a scholarship, and won a national championship in 1992.

“One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11,” Swinney continued with Jordan. “When I was 15 I had a lot of, man there was a lot of anxiety and like ‘What is my future and how am I going to do this and that?’ But Jeremiah 29:11 says, ‘For I know the plans I have for you.’ Not that I think I know. God says, ‘For I know the plans I have for — not everyone — for you.’ Those are plans for good, not disaster. Plans to give you a future and a hope.

“I love that Bible verse because if you really grab on to that, you are going to have some challenges, you are going to have some disappointments, you are going to have some setbacks, you are going to have some failures and you are going to have some successes, but if you can hang on to that, God never says, ‘Oops!’ God never says, ‘My bad!’ Then again, if there is hope in the future, then there is power in the present to deal with whatever comes your way. There is nothing that is going to happen to you that you and God can’t handle together.”

Swinney concluded by talking about the worthlessness of worry.

“Don’t worry. It is not going to add anything to your life. Just do the best you can with what you got. That is what the happiest people in the world do. They take what they have and do the best they can with it. That is what life is about,” Swinney said.

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