Being the coaches son has to be a mixed blessing, almost thankless.
You have a lifelong connection with your dad but yet, you’re just one of his players within the program. I remember watching Dabo Swinney’s introductory press conference and seeing his wife Kathleen, along with their sons Will, Drew and Clay, squirming in their chairs. Little boys do that.
Watching it again recently, I noticed something that I’d missed before. This family, while grateful and excited, knew their lives, for better or worse, would never be the same. I’m sure, in their little minds, the boys just wanted their dad to be theirs, alone.
Swinney is certainly a devoted husband and father but on that day, all present at that announcement, especially the Swinney household, sensed a change.
As a young high schooler, Will had a specific job on the sidelines. He had his clipboard and would track all the plays. You could just see, he enjoyed being a part of dad’s world. Then, after high school he made the choice to become a member of the team. I’m sure he had other opportunities but he wanted to be here, at Clemson.
I’ve never been to a practice, I’ve never witnessed the Swinney’s on the field relationship up close but I believe it has to be special for both father and son. It’s been said that Swinney has left the decisions of his sons playing time to others. He stated when asked about coaching his sons, that it can be a challenge, but a bigger blessing. With love and discipline, things always tend to work themselves out.
Will would find and earn his place on this team. As holder on PAT’s and FG‘s, he’s been stellar, a rock and a model of consistency. He’s found some playing time at slot receiver and on punt returns. Some, the most cynical among us, assume Will was shown preferential treatment gratis dear old dad. Nothing says ignorance more than that drivel. This young man has to prove his value above and beyond that of any other player, everyday because of words like that. I’m of the opinion he’s more than done that.
Last Saturday against UConn the Tigers were playing from behind and Will Swinney was called upon to deliver on a fake field goal, and deliver he did. He executed that play flawlessly. You cold see the earned respect and love of his teammates. After that play, he was swarmed by his brothers in celebration. It was a touching moment.
This past year, those brothers, his teammates, went before their head coach with a request. A recommendation to give Will a scholarship. After that show of support, Will was placed on scholarship. Sure, Dabo can more than afford the cost of his son’s college education but that’s not the point. He had earned it, it was his.
As this young man’s career winds down, you have to admit one thing. He’s never asked anything more than a chance and has more than proven himself worthy. There’s another aspect of this father and son tale. They both have made it look easy, while you know it had to have been, at times, hard. They handled the entire situation with transparency and decency. Both hallmark characteristics of a true leader. I wouldn’t expect anything less than that from one of Dabo Swinney’s boys, all 125 of them. Thanks Will, you’re quite a man.
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