For Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, roots run deep in Alabama

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SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (AP) Before coming to Clemson 13 years ago, all Dabo Swinney ever knew was Alabama.

The Tigers coach grew up in near Birmingham, and like so many boys his age, dreamed of playing football for the University of Alabama and coach Bear Bryant. He fulfilled part of that dream.

Swinney graduated from Alabama, married a girl he met in first grade, and worked as a Crimson Tide assistant coach in Tuscaloosa. When he was away from coaching, he worked in commercial real estate for a former Crimson Tide football star. One of the shopping centers Swinney helped create during his other life is still thriving in Hoover.

Now Swinney stands at the pinnacle of his career, facing his past. The top-ranked Tigers (14-0) face No. 2 Alabama (13-1) on Monday night in the College Football Playoff, seeking a national title.

“I think God has got a sense of humor,” Swinney said. “I really do. I think it’s great.”

Swinney’s love of Alabama football came from his father, Ervil Swinney. William Christopher became Dabo when he was just a baby and his older brother called him “that boy,” and it sounded like Dabo.

Swinney grew up watching the Tide dominate on Saturdays and Coach Bryant talk about the previous day’s game on his Sunday television show. Bryant retired after the 1982 season and died only a few months later. Swinney cried that day.

His high school years were hard. His father became violent when he drank and his parents split when he was in high school. Swinney eventually reconciled with Ervil, who died last year at 70 after a lengthy illness.

Just finding a place to live was tough for Carol Swinney, now McIntosh, and her sons. When Dabo Swinney was at Alabama, his mom moved in with him and his roommate. Dabo and his mom shared a bedroom and a bed.

“It was a special time,” Swinney said. “A little small. But we lived in apartment 81. That was my high school number, and I lived in apartment 81, lived there for five years, and my mom lived there with me for three years, my redshirt sophomore, junior, senior year.”

In his first year as a graduate assistant coach, “we got fancy,” he said. “We rented a little house over toward City in Coventry was what it was called. We rented a little house, and we each had our own room. That was big-time.”

Both apartment 81 and that place on Coventry were destroyed by the tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa in 2011, and the thought of losing a bit of his past still seems to sadden Swinney.

Swinney was a scrawny wide receiver at Pelham High School. When he went to the University of Alabama it was not with a football scholarship. He sat in the stands at Bryant-Denney Stadium as a freshman and watched games with that girl he met in first grade, Kathleen Bassett. Swinney saw receivers dropping passes and thought he could do better. So he went out for the team and made it as a walk-on. Bill Curry was the coach at the time, but when he left Gene Stallings took over in 1990. Stalling had played for and coached under Bryant.

“We felt like we get the next best thing in coach Stallings,” former Crimson Tide quarterback Jay Barker, who was a couple years behind Swinney at Alabama.

Swinney was never a great player. He caught seven passes in his career at Alabama and played on special teams.

“He tried real hard and he needed a scholarship and I gave him one,” Stallings said.

Swinney’s final game for the Crimson Tide was the 1993 Sugar Bowl against Miami. The Tide upset the Hurricanes to win its first national title since Bryant had stepped down. It was also the last one until Nick Saban showed up in Tuscaloosa in 2007.

When Swinney was done playing, he became a graduate assistant under Stallings and eventually Stallings gave him his first full-time job in coaching.

“I’m going to pay you $38,000 and that’s more than you’re worth but I know you’ll do me a good job,” Swinney said, doing a spot on impression of Stallings’ low, gravelly voice.

Swinney stayed at Alabama even after Stallings was gone, but when coach Mike Dubose was fired after the 2000 season, Swinney was let go, too.

It was then he stepped away from coaching and took a job leasing commercial real estate for Rich Wingo, a former Alabama linebacker who was also Swinney’s strength and conditioning coach with the Tide.

“I would see Dabo periodically at church,” Wingo said. “I always thought the world of him. He was a skinny, wiry, but tough kid.”

Swinney did well in his new job, and visitors to the Patton Creek Shopping Center in Hoover can see the fruits of his work still thriving. Dabo and Kathleen built their dream house in Tuscaloosa and he was standing in the driveway with the builders when then-Clemson coach Tommy Bowden called to offer him a job as Tigers wide receivers coach.

“I’m the golden son-in-law because I got all three boys living in Alabama. All of our family’s there,” he said. “I became a goat real quick. I’m going to move all these grandbabies to Clemson, South Carolina.”

At Clemson, Swinney went from wide receivers coach to head coach to one of the top coaches in college football. He is 75-26 in eight seasons leading the Tigers.

For many Alabama fans, he has become their second-favorite coach behind Saban.

“There really is a soft spot for him,” said Barker, who hosts a talk show in Birmingham. “He’s got something that coach Saban will never have. He played at Alabama. He’s got that Bryant influence. Coach Bryant and Coach Stallings influenced how he approaches life and the way he approaches the game. It’s really how they perceived building men more than winning games.”

In some ways, Alabama fans look at Swinney as their coach in-waiting, the obvious replacement for the 64-year-old Saban, whenever he does leave the Tide. For now though, Swinney knows at least a few Tide fans are conflicted.

“I’ve kind of found out where I stand with some of them, but it’s a great match-up, and the two best teams,” Swinney said. “That’s just the way it’s worked out, and I think it’s special.”

2019 All-American Bowl roster

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The future of college football will be on display in San Antonio on January 5th (1:00 P.M. ET) as the top high school recruits in the country participate in the All-American Bowl.

Here’s the roster for this year’s big event, and don’t miss a second of the action on NBC and the NBC Sports app.

No. First Last Pos. Ht. Wt. High School City State
1 Jadon Haselwood WR 6’3″ 195 Cedar Grove High School Ellenwood GA
2 Eric Gray RB 5’11” 195 Lausanne Collegiate School Memphis TN
3 Jaden Payoute DB 6’2″ 195 Lloyd C. Bird High School Chesterfield VA
4 David Bell WR 6’2″ 195 Warren Central High School Indianapolis IN
5 Chris Hinton DL 6’4″ 280 Greater Atlanta Christian School Norcross GA
6 Trey Sanders RB 6’2″ 215 IMG Academy Bradenton FL
7 Tyrique Stevenson DB 6’2″ 200 Miami Southridge Senior High School Miami FL
8 Dominick Blaylock WR 6’0″ 190 Walton High School Marietta GA
9 Frank Ladson WR 6’4″ 185 South Dade Senior High School Homestead FL
10 Kyle Hamilton DB 6’3″ 190 Marist School Atlanta GA
11 Mohamoud Diabate LB 6’4″ 220 Auburn High School Auburn AL
12 Taulia Tagovailoa QB 5’11” 205 Thompson High School Alabaster AL
13 Wandale Robinson WR 5’9″ 180 Western Hills High School Frankfort KY
14 Ronnie Hickman DB 6’2″ 200 DePaul Catholic High School Wayne NJ
15 Jay Bramblett P 6’2″ 190 Hillcrest High School Tuscaloosa AL
16 Graham Mertz QB 6’4″ 215 Blue Valley North High School Overland Park KS
17 Sam Howell QB 6’2″ 215 Sun Valley High School Monroe NC
18 Ramel Keyton WR 6’3″ 185 Marietta High School Marietta GA
19 Kane Patterson LB 6’1″ 220 Christ Presbyterian Academy Nashville TN
20 Nick Cross DB 6’1″ 210 DeMatha Catholic High School Hyattsville MD
21 Nolan Groulx WR 5’11” 190 William A. Hough High School Cornelius NC
22 Steele Chambers LB 6’2″ 225 Blessed Trinity Catholic High School Roswell GA
23 Tiawan Mullen DB 5’10” 160 Coconut Creek High School Pompano Beach FL
25 Cameron Smith DB 6’1″ 180 Westwood High School Blythewood SC
27 Quavaris Crouch RB 6’2″ 230 Harding University High School Charlotte NC
28 Alex Felkins K 6’4″ 190 Holland Hall School Tulsa OK
29 Chez Mellusi RB 6’1″ 205 Naples High School Naples FL
30 Quashon Fuller DL 6’4″ 270 Lehigh Senior High School Lehigh Acres FL
31 Tyron Hopper LB 6’2″ 210 Roswell High School Roswell GA
34 Keontra Smith DB 6’0″ 200 Chaminade-Madonna College Prep Hollywood FL
38 Diwun Black LB 6’4″ 225 Osceola High School Kissimmee FL
40 George Karlaftis DL 6’5″ 270 West Lafayette Junior / Senior High School West Lafayette IN
42 Nolan Smith DL 6’3″ 230 IMG Academy Bradenton FL
43 Jestin Jacobs LB 6’3″ 210 Northmont High School Clayton OH
44 Travon Walker DL 6’5″ 275 Upson Lee High School Thomaston GA
47 Byron Young DL 6’4″ 280 West Jones High School Laurel MS
51 William Putnam OL 6’4″ 285 H.B. Plant High School Tampa FL
52 Lance Dixon LB 6’3″ 210 West Bloomfield High School West Bloomfield Township MI
53 Quentin Skinner LS 6’0″ 245 Buford High School Buford GA
55 Dontae Lucas OL 6’4″ 350 IMG Academy Bradenton FL
56 Antonio Alfano DL 6’5″ 285 Colonia High School Colonia NJ
71 Andrew Kristofic OL 6’6″ 275 Pine-Richland High School Gibsonia PA
73 Caedan Wallace OL 6’5″ 305 The Hun School of Princeton Princeton NJ
74 Doug Nester OL 6’7″ 310 Spring Valley High School Huntington WV
75 Charles Cross OL 6’5″ 270 Laurel High School Laurel MS
76 Harry Miller OL 6’4″ 300 Buford High School Buford GA
77 Xavier Truss OL 6’7″ 330 Bishop Hendricken High School Warwick RI
81 Cornelius Johnson WR 6’3″ 195 Brunswick School Greenwich CT
88 Tyler Fromm TE 6’4″ 225 Warner Robins High School Warner Robins GA
93 Zach Harrison DL 6’6″ 245 Olentangy Orange High School Lewis Center OH
99 Khris Bogle DL 6’5″ 220 Cardinal Gibbons High School Fort Lauderdale FL

2019 All-American Bowl FAQs

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All-American Bowl Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: What is the All-American Bowl Presented by American Family Insurance?

A: The All-American Bowl is the premier high school All-American game played annually in San Antonio, TX, showcasing 100 of the nation’s top high school senior football players.

 

Q: Who is playing in this game?

A: The nation’s premier high school football players. All players move on to major Division I football programs, and then some to the NFL.

 

Q: What dividing line do you use to organize the East and West teams?

A: The Mississippi River is the rough dividing line, pending position needs.

 

Q: Where is the game played?

A:  The game is played annually in San Antonio, TX, at the Alamodome. The game has been played in San Antonio since 2002 and the Alamodome since 2003. The first game, the 2001 game, was played in Dallas, TX.

 

Q: Is this game similar to the McDonald’s All-American Basketball game?

A: Yes, in that both of these games showcase the very best in high school athletes for their respective sports.

                                                                                                               

Q: When is the game?

A: The game is Saturday, January 5th, 2019.

 

Q: Is the game on TV?

A: The game is broadcast live on NBC at 12:00 p.m. Central Time.

 

Q: Who is All American Games?

A: All American Games helps the next generation succeed through America’s finest training and showcase events. Established in 2000, America’s premier youth and prep sports marketing company owns and produces the All-American Bowl presented by American Family Insurance, Football University (FBU), and the FBU National Championship. We foster a culture of evolution and teamwork, blazing trails and producing opportunity. We create experiences for student-athletes to develop, reach their potentials and realize their successes.

 

Q: Who picks the All-American athletes?

A: All American Games and 247Sports make up the game’s official Selection Committee.

 

Q: Why San Antonio?

A: One of the main attractions of San Antonio is the Alamodome, which is a climate-controlled, covered dome that does not have an NFL team.

 

Q: How many years has this game been played?

A: The 2019 game will be the 19th consecutive game.

 

Q: Where can I get more information on the game?

A: More information on the Bowl and its related activities can be found by logging onto allamericangames.com, or by connecting with the Bowl through its multiple social media accounts.

 

Q: What are the NBC college announcements?

A:  Each year, All-American athletes announce what college they will be attending via a live announcement ceremony during the game’s broadcast. College announcements always add extra excitement to the game. During the course of the game the players select their college live on NBC, with no one from the general public having any previous knowledge of their intentions. In the past high school stars like Reggie Bush, Patrick Peterson, Odell Beckham Jr. and Adrian Peterson have announced their college decision on live television during All-American Bowl presented by American Family Insurance.

 

Q: Are there any other events associated with the All-American Bowl presented by American Family Insurance?

A: Yes, they are:

  • The 2019 National Combine at the All-American Bowl, January 4th (the top 600 underclassmen football players from across the country)

 

Q: How do I nominate underclassmen for the National Combine?

 

A: Nominations from football coaches for outstanding juniors and sophomores are accepted year-round. Nominating a player for the combine does not mean he is automatically registered. The game’s selection partners will narrow the list to 600 underclassmen. As a participant in the combine it also does not guarantee a spot in the next year’s Bowl game.

 

Q: Who provides the resources for the players to play the game (i.e. travel, uniforms, etc.)

A: Pursuant to the NCAA, All American Games provides all necessary and reasonable expenses for each athlete to play in the game. Those expenses include round trip airfare, lodging, meals and essential needs.

 

Q: Where are tickets available?

A: Tickets are available through the Alamodome Box Office or through ticketmaster.com, (210) 207-3663, or toll free (800) 884-3663.

 

Q: What is the host hotel for the game?

A: The host hotel is the:

Grand Hyatt

1148 E Commerce St
San Antonio, TX 78205
(210) 224-1234