The Clemson Tigers pulled off a last-second victory over Alabama to win the 2016 college football National Championship.
For Clemson, it was the school’s first national title since 1981. For Dabo Swinney, it confirmed his status as one of the nation’s elite coaches.
On his way to winning the National Championship, Swinney led his Tigers to back-to-back wins over Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes and Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. Meyer and Saban are generally considered the two best active coaches in the sport. To beat these future Hall-of-Famers in back-to-back games is a remarkable accomplishment.
Dabo Swinney has quickly won over a nation of fans. His rags-to-riches story, his quick wit, his memorable one-liners, and his relentless confidence in the power of positive thinking reminds me a lot of another legendary coach, Lou Holtz.
Swinney is the type of leader who exudes optimism, but don’t confuse his belief in positive thinking with a passive Pollyanna attitude. Dabo is a fighter. He has a warrior mentality.
To better understand Dabo Swinney’s success philosophy, here are 10 of his most memorable success quotes…
1- “To be an overachiever you have to be an over-believer.”
This is Coach Swinney’s most famous line and it sums up his optimistic outlook on life. Dabo doesn’t believe in thinking small. He knows how important it is to set BIG goals and to ignore the naysayers who tell him to lower his expectations.
2- “Think about your dream. Then, put your head down and go to work.”
Don’t confuse positive thinking with passively wishing and hoping. Dabo knows that if you’re going to have big dreams, you better be willing to fight hard to make those dreams come true. Once you’ve taken the time to visualize where you want to go, you have to make the commitment that you’ll do whatever it takes to get there.
3- “You can’t be afraid to play. Commit to play and you live with the results.”
Things are never going to be perfect and any worthwhile goal is going to require that you take risks, face your fears of uncertainty, and tackle adversity head-on. You can’t be afraid to fail. In fact, failure is part of the process. You’re going to get knocked down along the way. All you can do is make sure you keep getting back up and keep giving your absolute best. That’s the only path to becoming a champion.
4- “You’re never going to be a great program if you lose a game and your season’s over and you act like the world’s coming to an end; [like] none of the other games matter. That’s a bad attitude and you’re probably going to live a miserable life.”
This is Dabo’s way of saying that you have to enjoy the journey—both the ups and the downs. You have to expect adversity along the way and be prepared for it. If you expect everything to always go your way and to never have any setbacks, you’re going to always be disappointed. And yes, you will have defeats in life. But don’t dwell on those defeats; remind yourself of your victories and accomplishments along the way.
5- “We’re the rednecks who moved into the nice neighborhood, but we belong.”
For years, Clemson was known in the college football world for having a large and passionate fan base, but for failing to win the big games that would propel the program to “elite status.” Sport media members coined the term “Clemsoning” to mean having a talented team that finds a way to lose its biggest games. Understandably, Dabo wanted to destroy this negative connotation and, like all great leaders do, he took that negative and turned it into a positive. He rallied his players behind the idea that the “college football elites” don’t want us crashing the party. This strategy fueled Clemson forward and the team played with a chip on its shoulder. After beating Ohio State and Alabama—two of college football’s most prestigious programs in back-to-back weeks—I think it’s safe to say that Clemson has proven it belongs.
6- “Let the light that shines in you be brighter than the light that shines on you.”
Especially in high-pressure situations, you can’t control everything that’s going on around of you. But, you can control what’s going on inside of you. No matter what obstacles you encounter, you can always take control of two things: your effort and your attitude. And that’s what makes the difference between success and failure.
7- “Bad things happen in life. Two years ago we got our butts kicked on this field, but it’s how you respond that counts.”
That was Dabo Swinney’s quote after beating Ohio State in the Orange Bowl game that served as the 2015 semifinal matchup. It wasn’t lost on Dabo that this victory occurred on the same field where Clemson had lost by 37 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl game just two years earlier. Instead of letting a lopsided postseason defeat derail the program’s progress, Dabo and the Tigers got to work on learning from the loss and coming back stronger than ever.
8- “(The Bible) says, love the Lord with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul. The second (rule) is, love your neighbor as you’d love yourself. It doesn’t say love your neighbor (if they’re) from the same religion. It doesn’t say love your neighbor if they’re the same color as you. It doesn’t say love your neighbor if they pull for the same team as you. It doesn’t say love your neighbor if they’re the same gender as you. (It doesn’t say) love your neighbor if they have the same sexuality as you. It just says, love your neighbor as you’d love yourself. If we all lived by that in this country, we wouldn’t have near the problems we have.”
Swinney has always worn his faith on his sleeve. At times, he has been criticized for being too open about his faith, but he’s never apologized for the fact that he’s a believer. Swinney’s faith is the foundation for his thinking and he has never backed down from his convictions. The above quote exemplifies his viewpoint.
9- “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
A positive attitude means learning from mistakes, bouncing back from setbacks, and always believing that you can find a way to make your dreams come true. In Dabo’s view, there’s simply never a good reason to have a bad attitude.
10- “It takes a lot to be Dabo Swinney, and not everyone can live this lifestyle. But, boy is it fun.”
Dabo Swinney is a high-energy, one-of-a-kind type of football coach. He doesn’t fit the mold of being your “standard” tight-lipped, stoic football coach. Dabo is true to himself. And that’s what makes him successful. Leaders—in any field—can’t fake who they are. They have to embrace their true selves. If they don’t, those they lead will never buy into their message. Dabo is who he is, and his passion and enthusiasm shows us—and his players—just how much he enjoys being Dabo Swinney, national championship coach of the Clemson Tigers.