The Depths of Dabo
His real name is William Christopher Swinney, in case you didn’t know. The name “Dabo” came from his older brother Tripp who used to call him that boy. The southern draw in Alabama can help connect the dots.
In the aftermath of his second title in three seasons, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney stole the show once more. His illuminating personality makes postgame celebrations worth watching. His graciousness in victory or defeat, unmatched. If you don’t know Dabo’s incredible underdog story, from homeless teen to two-time champion, keep reading.
It’s a long list. The elements of this Underdog story, that is. His mother had polio. His father had a drinking problem. His brother was in a car accident and lost his memory. He and his mother moved into an apartment together before being evicted. That was a short summary of Dabo’s childhood. Then he went to college… at the University of Alabama.
Dabo was born a member of the Crimson Tide. His father loved Bear Bryant. It was his dream to go there. He made it to Tuscaloosa in 1988, and his mother came with him.
Yep. A freshman at college shared a room – not an apartment, a room – with his mother because she couldn’t afford a home.
In 1989, Dabo walked on at Alabama. He was a receiver for three seasons and caught just seven passes for a total of 81 yards. A true love of the game, but never a promising future with football.
“He’s always been the underdog,” said former Alabama quarterback Jay Barker in an interview with ESPN. “He has had to fight for everything and has never been given anything. That’s what has made him so successful. He loves being the underdog because he’s lived it his entire life.”
After graduating, Dabo took a GA position and stayed at Alabama as an assistant coach for eight seasons. He was let go along with all of Gene Stallings’ staff in 2001. That was it. No other offers came in, and Dabo Swinney worked in real estate until 2003. That was only 16 years ago.
When former Alabama assistant Tommy Bowden took over at Clemson in 2003, he called Dabo. Dabo said no. He had moved on from coaching, but Bowden insisted and Dabo caved.
He coached receivers for four seasons before he took over as the interim head coach in 2008 when Bowden was fired. In 2009, Clemson made him the next head coach of the Tigers.
Ten years later, Dabo has brought Clemson to a level only matched by – and now unmatched by – Alabama. A record of 115-30. An 8-5 postseason/bowl record. An impressive 4-2 record in the last four seasons of the College Football Playoff.
This is William Christopher Swinney, one heck of an underdog.