When Dabo Swinney hired defensive coordinator Brent Venables away from Oklahoma following the 2011 season, few could have foreseen the monumental impact it would have on the Clemson program. It has been the perfect marriage.
On the field, Venables has consistently produced one of the nation's better defensive units. Off the field, he has become the epitome of the culture Swinney has created.
It's a culture that focuses heavily on family and structure, and one that resonates with recruits. It also resonates with Venables, who values the way Swinney has turned a demanding job into so much more.
"For me personally, it doesn't feel like a job," Venables said. "In large part due to the environment that he (Swinney) creates. He fights for our players. He fights for his staff. He fights for this program every day to make sure that we have everything that we need to have the kind of fulfillment, experience, and success that we'd like."
Venables says Swinney has created an environment dedicated to giving each player the best college experience possible. Not only do they get a top notch education, they are given the tools needed to succeed in life away from the field.
"It's very important to him that our players have a great college experience," Venables said. "All the while, as they're growing up, trying to teach them life lessons through the game of football, get a world class education, and really promote family. For us as coaches, it just makes it a very inviting place to work."
When Venables speaks about the culture he has helped Swinney create at Clemson, it quickly becomes apparent that it's something the extends beyond the players on the field. It's something that is all encompassing. From the administration, to the coaches, players, and support staff, throughout the entire Clemson community.
"We attract a lot of like-minded people," Venable said. "From that standpoint that value the values that Coach Swinney has in place here, again, family, structure, discipline, accountability. We're also fortunate to be supported by an administration, board of trustees, and the president. It's important. I think he just does a fabulous job of connecting to the community and to the fan base and to the administration, to the student body. There's just a very unique connectivity."
Even with all of the success the program has experienced, Venables says that Swinney is still easy to work with. He admires the way the Tigers head coach goes about leading the program, a quality that appeals to many.
"It's hard to replicate," Venables said. "I think it's well known coach likes to have fun. What we do in this profession, it's very difficult. As a profession, it's very demanding. Just got an incredible leadership style. Some of it has to do with the culture and all that, but again, the things that he emphasized that are important to him just appeals to the masses."