College football fans are in for an intriguing matchup Saturday when the Clemson Tigers face the Louisville Cardinals in a marquee, national televised game. After all, the Tigers, the reigning national champs, are a team for fans to follow this season.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s coach, has been a longtime supporter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is featured on the cover of the latest FCA Magazine. The September/October feature story opens with Swinney’s answer to ESPN after his team’s epic 35-31 comeback win over Alabama in last season’s College Football Playoff national championship game. And those words revealed perhaps more about who Swinney is as a man than who he is as a coach.
With 74,512 roaring fans inside Raymond James Stadium, and 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.”
The new FCA Magazine story recounts how Swinney became one of the top coaches in college football since bringing Clemson its first national championship football trophy in 35 years.
“As great as that moment was in Tampa,” Swinney told FCA, “it pales in comparison to the journey it took to get there. It’s always how you get there.”
FCA Magazine editor Clay Meyer added: “Football fans may watch Clemson games, read about Dabo Swinney and think he’s on top of the world. And, at times, he is. But his childhood was not easy, coming from a broken home and struggling with a difficult relationship with his father. But throughout the difficulties that no young man should face, Swinney found peace in Jesus. He began attending an FCA Huddle at his Alabama high school, and, in 1986, gave his life to the Lord after attending an FCA meeting. Jesus never promised that the life of the Christian would be easy, but today, Dabo Swinney puts his faith in Christ in all things, and we are honored to feature his story in FCA Magazine.”
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 said. “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.”
Swinney after winning the national championship.
FCA’s feature on Swinney highlights his time playing college football, his forgiveness of and reconciliation with his father and his stellar coaching career. In eight seasons at Clemson, he’s led the Tigers to eight straight bowl games, two consecutive national championship games and the school’s first title since 1981.
And Swinney gives all of his success to 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.”
Read the entire FCA Magazine feature on Dabo Swinney here.
View and download the FCA Magazine digital wallpaper featuring Dabo Swinney here.
Photo of courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications