A question from a 15-year-old fan led Clemson coach Dabo Swinney this week to deviate from "football talk" to a more important subject: the meaning of life.
The exchange took place during Swinney’s weekly radio call-in show, Tiger Talk, when a 15-year-old fan, Jordan, asked the coach what he would tell 15-year-old Dabo Swinney what he had learned about life.
"It is hard to have this perspective at 15, but you can take it from me: There are going to be some long, long days along your journey, but the years are so, so short. It is all good. Enjoy your journey," Swinney said.
Swinney’s Tigers (8-1) were ranked No. 3 in this week’s College Football Playoff poll and are on track to make the four-team playoff. He has built the program into a powerhouse. Swinney’s first full year as a head coach was 2009, one year after the Tigers finished 7-6. Since then, they’ve won two national championships, six conference titles, and have made the playoffs five straight years.
But Swinney had humble beginnings. His father was an alcoholic, and his parents eventually divorced, The Clemson Insider reported. He and his mother also were essentially homeless during his senior year of high school, living in the homes of others.
When he was elevated from assistant coach to head coach, many Clemson fans questioned the hire and wanted a more established coach. Swinney, though, proved the doubters wrong.
"The most important thing is you were created on purpose," Swinney told the 15-year-old caller. "You have a thumbprint. There are billions of people in this world, and you are the only one with your thumbprint. And God intended it to be that way, so you are the only one that can leave the imprint that He has given you.
"If you will build your life on a foundation of faith, then you will know true peace and happiness. If you build it on anything else, or seek happiness in anything else, then you are going to always be let down."
Swinney also quoted Scripture during the call-in show.
"One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11. When I was 15 I had a lot of, man there was a lot of anxiety and like ‘What is my future and how am I going to do this and that?' But Jeremiah 29:11 says, 'For I know the plans I have for you.' Not that I think I know," Swinney said, according to The Clemson Insider. "God says, 'For I know the plans I have for — not everyone — for you.' Those are plans for good, not disaster. Plans to give you a future and a hope.
"I love that Bible verse because if you really grab onto that, you are going to have some challenges, you are going to have some disappointments, you are going to have some setbacks, you are going to have some failures and you are going to have some successes, but if you can hang on to that, God never says, 'Oops!' God never says, 'My Bad!' Then again, if there is hope in the future, then there is power in the present to deal with whatever comes your way. There is nothing that is going to happen to you that you and God can't handle together."
Swinney concluded, "That is what I would want someone to come down and sit the old 15-year old version of me down and say. 'Don't worry. It is not going to add anything to your life. Just do the best you can with what you got. That is what the happiest people in the world do. They take what they have and do the best they can with it. That is what life is about.'"
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.