Alum’s story inspires students

Published 5:30 pm Monday, January 26, 2009

Dabo Swinney, head coach of Clemson University football, returned last week to speak at the football banquet of his alma mater, Pelham High School.

I wonder if Dabo knows what he has already given to the students at this school. Dabo Swinney has ambled into the limelight with a spirit of humility and gratitude that is inspiring.

Swinney’s mother named him William, but somehow his childhood nickname seems more fitting. When he lost the interim from his coaching title in December, public intrigue piqued. Who was this coach at Clemson and what was his story?

Dabo didn’t tell the reporters that he was from Birmingham. He told them that he was from Pelham. He told them that he was raised as the youngest of three boys, one of whom christened him as Dabo or “that boy.”

Dabo revealed that his family struggled as he grew up. He shared that sometimes the family didn’t have enough money, his parents divorced, some family members battled addiction, and he worked menial jobs to scrape by.

By sharing his story, Swinney creates possibilities. Students afraid that finances might prevent them from realizing their dreams see how hard work can bridge the distance.

Students who don’t get the scholarship, know that Swinney didn’t get it either. A walk on, he earned his place on the team at the University of Alabama.

When I speak with students about possibilities, “Why not you?” is often my question.

Because Dabo Swinney shares his struggles, future grads clearly envision themselves rising above their own.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at