Pick yourself up, and dance

Published 11:32 am Monday, January 16, 2017

If you follow these musings from a year ago, you may recall I stuck tongue firmly in cheek in writing about Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and how he loved to dance after each of his team’s wins.

I said that in 2017 – win or lose – Dabo would still be dancing. And just like some of you: I had no idea.

Well, William Christopher Swinney, nicknamed Dabo (it’s a combobulation of “That Boy”, a name Swinney’s brother Tripp gave him as a child – and, if you speak Southern like most of us do, you understand!), he ought to pass for Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire – heck, even Arthur Murray – after this week.

In so many of his post-game interviews you saw a real genuine – that’s “gin-you-wine” – American original:  he’s chatty, he’s quirky, and dad-gum if he ain’t the real thing.

Last Monday night, the former Alabama walk-on-turned-coach faced his former team across the field, led by a guy on the precipice of history: one win away from eclipsing the great Paul “Bear” Bryant with six national championships – at Bryant’s school, no less!

And how does this storybook end?  The star quarterback throws the game-winning TD to a walk-on receiver with one second on the clock. Smiles, cries, screams and dreams: it all weaves into a story you wouldn’t have believed if it weren’t told by the man who lived it.

Swinney, that former walk-on who led the Tigers past his alma mater, might even grab the remote and turn the channel on this one himself. Swinney, the Alabaman who promised a little Pickens County, South Carolina town that yearned for the good-ole Danny Ford national championship days from 1981, they would live those days again.

A sort of Willy Wonka wearing an orange sweater, a caffeine junkie who brought a bucket-load of folksy sayings to town; and who outwardly expressed his convictions and personal faith — even at times when he caught flack for it.

“We’re the national champs and to God be the glory,” he said.

Swinney might be the corniest coach in America, but his convictions are true.

The coach sets several goals each season but “win the title” is never one of them. It’s win our opener, win the division, win the state (beat South Carolina!), win the ACC and win the last game: wherever that last game is played.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.