Monday night, in an exciting College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Santa Clara, California, the Clemson Tigers took home their third trophy—adding to one in 1981 another in 2017. Again at the helm was head coach Dabo Swinney, a longtime friend of FCA.
“The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is thrilled today for Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers,” said Shane Williamson, President and CEO of FCA. “His testimony both on and off the field shines for Jesus Christ. Countless football players over the years have been impacted by Coach Swinney, as he sees that long-lasting life lessons take precedence over the playbook. His commitment to FCA has also been a bright spot for our ministry. We congratulate both the Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide on their incredible seasons.”
Swinney has had a longstanding relationship with FCA, speaking at events and sharing his faith story in publications. In the fall of 2017, FCA featured the championship coach on the cover of FCA Magazine. That feature story opened with Swinney’s words to ESPN after his team’s epic 35-31 win over Alabama in 2017. And these words revealed perhaps more about who he is as a man than who he is as a coach.
With some 26 million more watching on TV, Swinney said: “Only God can do this. If anybody thinks anything different, they’re really missing it. This is nothing that I’ve done. Truly, only God can write a script like this.”
FCA Magazine recounted how Swinney became one of the top coaches in the game and brought Clemson its first national championship football trophy in 35 years. Swinney said the great moment of that victory “pales in comparison to the journey it took to get there.”
"We’re imperfect people, but I know God has a plan, and I just try to live my life in a way that can hopefully be an encouragement to others.” -Dabo Swinney
After Swinney—who was nicknamed “Dabo” because of the sound his 17-month-old brother made when referring to him as “that boy”—gave his life to Christ, his eternity in heaven was secured, but his life circumstances didn’t change.
“In fact, they got worse,” Swinney told FCA. “But I had this peace and this hope for a better future that I never had. My spirit changed, my attitude changed, the way I perceived things changed. I was certainly a long way from perfect, but I knew there was a purpose for my life because I met the Creator of my life.”
FCA also highlighted Swinney’s time playing college football, his forgiveness of and reconciliation with his father, and his stellar coaching career thus far. In 10 seasons leading Clemson as head coach, he’s taken the team to a slew of bowl games, three of the five National Championship Games. In fact, Clemson and Alabama have met for three of the five matchups.
And Swinney gives all the glory to God.
“I think God has honored the way we’ve done things,” he says. “I believe that with all my heart. That’s why I said what I said: ‘Only God can do this.’ We serve a big God—big, powerful—and He’s real, and I know that. To experience what I’ve experienced is surreal, but it’s comforting because I know that He is. I know He loves us. We’re imperfect people, but I know God has a plan, and I just try to live my life in a way that can hopefully be an encouragement to others.”
Swinney has also told FCA he has ups and downs like everyone else, but has the “true peace, happiness and hope that can only come from having a solid spiritual foundation in knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior.”
FCA also highlighted Swinney in its “Heart of a Coach” feature in a past magazine, where he told FCA that he accepted Christ through FCA while in high school in Pelham, Ala. One of Swinney’s childhood heroes, Joey Jones, a great receiver at Alabama, spoke at an FCA meeting, he recalled.
“I was fired up to hear him and thought he would talk about football,” Swinney told FCA, “but, instead, he talked about what God had done in his life. He offered us the opportunity to be saved, and the next thing I knew I was praying with Joey Jones and accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior. I went home that night and wrote in my Bible, ‘February 3, 1986—I dedicated my life to the Lord today, and He will be with me forever.’”
Swinney has also said of the 62-year-old international sports ministry: “FCA is important because it is on the front lines with our young people spreading the good news about the peace and hope that can only come from a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
In 2014, Swinney was named the FCA Grant Teaff Coach of the Year Award recipient, one of many coaching and character honors he’s been bestowed. Named after Grant Teaff, former Baylor University coach and Trustee Emeritus of the FCA Board of Trustees, the award recognizes a football coach who exemplifies Christian principles and who is involved in FCA.
Read the FCA feature on Dabo Swinney here.