One of the many reasons highly touted recruits have come to the small town of Clemson, South Carolina, to play their collegiate football is because of head coach Dabo Swinney's history of turning his players pro.
The story is no different in 2021, with a class that saw the first-ever Tiger go No. 1 overall in Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne also selected in the first round to Jacksonville. The other Tigers, Jackson Carman, Amari Rodgers, and Cornell Powell, all went in the second, third, and fifth rounds, respectively.
The line of success has only trended upward since Swinney took the helm full-time in 2009, and despite 12 seasons at the lead of the orange and white, the Clemson head coach is still as joyous as when he saw his first alumni go pro.
"(Entering the NFL) is special, because as you know, not everybody's going to get a chance to play in the NFL, so we celebrate those guys," Swinney said when joining former Washington Huskie Brock Huard on Sports Spectrum's pre-draft live stream.
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"We try to get 100% career placement every year with our senior class. Some go the NFL, some are going wherever, but we really take a lot of pride in that and celebrate that. But certainly, if you play this game, that's the ultimate dream; to have a chance to play at the highest level."
Swinney has had 62 players drafted since becoming the full-time head coach, with 13 players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Clemson has now had at least one first-round selection in seven of the last eight years. With 2022 draft-eligible players like Justyn Ross, Matt Bockhorst, Frank Ladson Jr., and Andrew Booth Jr., there's no reason to expect this streak not to continue.
"I think it's 1.7% of college football players get a chance to play in the NFL," Swinney said. "So that's a tough, tough stat, right there. We put that in front of them in the beginning. So for us, we want to say, okay, if that's the stat, and that's the goal, we've got to create an edge in everything we do. We got to equip ourselves in every single area because you have to separate from the pack.
"One of the things I go over every year, when we have our Pro Day with scouts and coaches, I want them to know this place is unique. 1.7% of college players play in the NFL, and I think I've had 108 get a shot, and 80% have made the roster. In 12 years as the head coach, we're second in draft picks and were second in first-round draft picks. So that's important, these kids want to know that they're coming into a place that can develop them, yet we've never had the number one recruiting class."
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