PELHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — When the Alabama Crimson Tide takes the field against the Clemson Tigers in the College Football National Championship some die-hard Bama fans will have conflicting emotions. Clemson Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney is originally from Pelham.
Many of his hometown friends are lifelong Crimson Tide fans, but some will be pulling for Clemson in this year’s national championship game. Friends say Dabo Swinney hasn’t forgotten his Pelham roots either.
Before his coaching career at Clemson University, and before he ever took the field as a receiver at the University of Alabama, William Christopher “Dabo” Swinney was a student athlete at Pelham High School.
Pelham City Council President Rick Hayes can hardly believe the boy he remembers from grade school is now coaching a national championship team.
“It’s fantastic for Dabo and it’s a lot of fun for those of us in Pelham. Clemson’s got a lot of fans in Pelham these days and obviously this is, this is Alabama territory, but we love Dabo and we’re just excited to see him be so successful,” said Hayes. “He in no way forgets where he’s from. He comes home here multiple times a year. He’s still got a lot of family in the area and has hundreds and hundreds of best friends. And I mean that very sincerely. Everybody who’s been friends with Dabo and grew up with him are best friends with him because that’s just the way he makes you feel. He’s got that connection with people that is lifetime.”
At M & M Hardware in Alabaster, Jason Miller is thrilled to see Dabo Swinney’s success at Clemson.
“Oh very proud man, just very proud. Overwhelmed,” said Miller.
Autographed pictures of the coach hang proudly on the wall. Part of a message on one of the photos reads “Dad, thanks for showing me the way.”
“His dad owned the place here and I guess I met Dabo when I was 13. I’m 40 now and his dad’s been a dad to me over the years like that so, been part of the family,” said Miller.
Despite his joy, it’s a bittersweet moment for Miller. He knows how much Ervil Swinney would have wanted to see his son coach in the national championship. The 70 year old lost a prolonged fight with cancer in August of 2015.
“Oh he’s got the best seat in the house, the very best seat in the house and I know he’s overwhelmed with everything going on. I just wish he was here to see this because, man just the emotions that he would have. Because he’s been fight… he fought cancer you know and came back home for the summer and said Dab had told him, Dab said ‘hey we’re going to have a team to compete this year.’ He was more proud about that than anything because you know he thought for sure they did have a team to compete and sure enough here it is,” said Miller.
“It is very hard to explain with all the emotions and just everything that’s happened, it’s like he’s put his hand over this team and said we’re going to go to victory. I just hate he’s not here to see it, but like I said he’s got the best seat in the house to see everything. I know he’s very proud of Dabo,” Miller continued.
Friends of Dabo Swinney tell WIAT 42 News that the high profile coach is just a regular guy who just happens to sign a lot of autographs these days. The Clemson Tigers play the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.
Copyright 2016 WIAT 42 News