COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA)—South Carolina lawmakers honored Clemson’s national championship in football with Clemson Day at the Statehouse Tuesday. They invited Coach Dabo Swinney to speak to a joint assembly of the House and Senate at noon.
He explained that the championship didn’t start at the beginning of the season or even during spring drills, but back in 2009 when he started. His goal was to build a great program, not a great team. “Our philosophy is to love, serve, and care for our players. That’s the philosophy of our program, and by doing that we’re going to build championship men that will go on and love and serve and care for their communities, for their families, their wives, their jobs, whatever it may be, to instill that in our young men,” he told lawmakers.
He said graduating his players was first and foremost in having a quality program. “We are the only school in the nation, the only school in the nation–128 Division I programs–that has been Top 15 in football but also Top 15 academically five years in a row,” he said to applause.
He told them that football matters and that football unifies. “And I see it, 85,000 people show up at Death Valley. Monday through Friday a lot of them probably wouldn’t speak to each other because of the barriers of society. But you let the Tigers score, they’re hugging necks, they’re jumping on top of each other, they’re, ‘Hey! You wanna stop by my tailgate? They got the Paw on, come on by.’ It doesn’t matter, and that’s the beauty of football.”
He also talked about losing in the national championship game last year. He asked his players this year if they wanted to get back to the championship game, and said it would take a little extra to get there. That also applies to lawmakers being the best senators and House members they can be, he told them. “That little extra to get along with that person you don’t really get along with, but you’ve got to find some common ground for the better of this state. It takes a little extra.”
He brought three of his players with him: Hunter Renfrow, who caught the winning touchdown pass, Tight End Milan Richards, and Defensive End Richard Yeargin, all redshirt sophomores. Richards said after the ceremony seeing all the orange at the Statehouse and hearing from lawmakers gave him a different perspective. “Coming here and being acknowledged like that, you really see what kind of impact you have on people all over this state, and so it was great to come finally see it,” he said.
Outside the Statehouse, the Department of Transportation unveiled a new sign that will go up at Welcome Centers around the state and near Clemson. The signs read “Clemson University 2016 College Football National Champions.”
Coach Swinney said, “I can’t wait to hang another one! Let’s go do it again!”