Remove the blinders and love thy neighbor

Published 11:04 am Wednesday, January 23, 2019

When the name Dabo Swinney emerges from a person’s lips, the first thing most folks immediately think of is a conversation about the sport of football.

However, the persona of Coach Swinney is much deeper than just a game played by youngsters and adults.

Sure, it’s a fact that Swinney is an ultra-successful college football coach. You do not have to scour the record books to learn of his masterful mindset when it comes to preparing and coaching young men to win. All you need is to look at the outcomes of the 2016 and 2018 NCAA Division I national championship games to gauge Swinney’s success as his Clemson Tigers won both titles.

His teams have also won four straight ACC titles.

Some may question why a fan of NC State University football (like myself) wants to sing the praises of a rival coach. After all, Swinney’s Tigers have enjoyed a lopsided advantage in this series since he took over the reigns of Clemson football in 2008, winning 10 of those 11 meetings since that time. That includes a 41-7 shellacking when the two teams met in Death Valley (home of the Tigers) this past season.

Yep, Swinney can coach and he has a gift that allows him to get the most out of his players. Others know that as well, especially those who cast ballots for the National Coach of the Year honors. On Jan. 10, Swinney was named the Paul “Bear” Bryant National Coach of the Year, less than 48 hours after his Tigers trashed the legendary Bryant’s former team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, 44-16, in the title game, which capped Clemson’s perfect 15-0 season. It marked the third time in the past four years that he captured that prestigious honor.

However, the thought process behind this week’s column has more to do about Swinney’s life outside of football rather than his success on the sidelines.

What impresses me the most about Swinney – other than his down-home, Southern charm – is his public display of his love of God. He doesn’t shy away from questions when asked about his religious beliefs.

“Faith is the priority of my life,” Swiiney said in a recent interview, adding that accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of 16 was, “a game changer for me.”

“It’s hard to survive in this world without a spiritual foundation,” the coach continued. “You have to have something that gives you peace because life is hard.”

He cited Biblical scripture (Jeremiah 29:11) without batting an eye: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“I’ve applied that to my life’s journey; for me, if there’s hope in the future, then there’s power in the present,” Swinney added.

He also expressed the joy he experienced when his three sons accepted Jesus into their lives.

“I’ve tried to live my life so it is pleasing to my maker as I plan on meeting him one day,” the coach stressed. “He’s not going to pat me on my back and talk about how many wins I’ve had, how many Coach of the Year awards I have, or how much money I made. He’s going to hold me accountable for the opportunities I was given to make an impact on the young lives I’ve been blessed to lead.”

In another press conference, this one from 2016, Swinney’s faith was front and center when he spoke about what he saw as the greatest of the 10 Commandments.

“One is love your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul. The other is love your neighbor as you love yourself,” he noted.

He added something to the latter Commandment, saying that it doesn’t say love your neighbor if he/she has the same religion as you; it doesn’t say love your neighbor only if they are the same color as you; or if they are only the same gender, sexuality, and share the same political beliefs as you.

“All it says is love your neighbor as you do yourself; if we all live life that way in this country, we wouldn’t have near the problems we have today,” Swinney stressed.

Those are words we can all live by, especially in this time and space where our political differences have blossomed into social hatred.


Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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