Swinney: Coaching Sons at Clemson is 'Special'

Zach Lentz

CHARLOTTE — Dabo Swinney is the head coach of the premier college football program in the nation, is in search of his third national title in the last three season — second consecutive — and is the highest paid coach in college football. 

But more than any of those things, he is a father. And unlike most college football coaches, whose long hours usually prevent them from seeing their families as often as they would liked, two of Swinney's three boys are on the Clemson football team. 

Coaching sons is something that few coaches have the opportunity to be a part of, but for Swinney is something that he does not take for granted. 

"It's just special. I mean, my boys have grown up — it's just neat to see them live their dream. I know what it's like to live your dream," Swinney said. "I'm living mine. I lived mine as a player and I'm living it every day as the coach at Clemson, and to see your kids have a chance to live their dream, but more importantly just grind. I like to see them work. I love to see how excited their teammates are for them. They're great teammates. They're both great young men. I think Drew got in there a little bit. But to see Will, Will has worked his butt off for three years and is a good little player, and just has to kind of fight for a niche here and there.

"I'm just really proud of him. It's special, because again, when I came to Clemson, I guess Will was four? Is that about right? Four? And Drew was three, and our baby Clay was born here. They've just grown up here. They've been a part of it for 17 years now, so it's special. It really is."

But Swinney is not the only coach to have a son on the team.

"And Coach (Venables), we got Big Jake out there, and Ben Batson, (is) our strength coach (Joey Batson's son). It's really neat when you've got your kids a part of it," Swinney continued.

The Tigers also sport the father son duo of Bill Spiers, senior special teams assistant coach, and starting punter Will Spiers. The Spiers' connection runs even deeper, as Bill’s eldest daughter, Ashley, is also a member of the Tiger football program — working for Swinney in the football offices.

“It truly is a family experience for us,” Spiers said. “I mean to have two of my children as a part of the program, it is more than I could have hoped for. I cannot thank Coach Swinney enough.”

That "family" is what Swinney has tried to build at Clemson. 

Now, as a coach and a father, the work to create an atmosphere conducive to families has paid off, even when he sees his son breaking his records.

"That's what we are, we're family here at Clemson," Swinney said. "I look at all of them as my sons to be honest with you. But it's really neat to be able to share special moments. Will had a great play tonight. I didn't even know what the play call — I was down there talking to — I don't even know who I was talking to. I think I was talking to Trevor. I was down on the other end, and I look up and there's Will taking off. Dadgumit. I had the career long. I think my career long was — I want to say it was like 18 yards, and he smoked me. That was all I had left, and he kind of gave that guy the business, as Ron Cherry would say, and made a nice run. But it was neat.

"I almost missed it because I wasn't really looking, and I look up and there he goes, and the best part is seeing his teammates, how much fun they have to see him be rewarded for his hard work."