Dabo Swinney maintains an attitude of gratitude

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“I come from Pelham, Alabama! That’s what’s special about me,” Coach Dabo Swinney said. “I am so thankful. I am grateful. The Bible says, ‘Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of good counselors, there is safety.’ I had so many good counselors in my life.”

Undoubtedly, Swinney had many inspired counselors beyond Pelham’s city limits. On Friday night, Swinney highlighted his Pelham counselors.

“… my family, my teachers, my coaches, people in the community, my wife, my in-laws—Jeff and Betty Bassett, my mom, Larry (his stepfather), my brother, Bobby and Judy Hayes—so many good counselors. I am so thankful.”

What makes Swinney special is also his worldview. He really is thankful and grateful. He has been since my earliest memories of him as a grinning toddler at a Birmingham ball field where his mom first spelled his unusual name for me and told me the origin story of that name.

Later, both of our families moved to Pelham and I babysat for the Swinney boys. When he was a junior in high school, I returned to PHS as a teacher. He was still grinning and grateful at sixteen and he has been since then. Even through tragedy and loss, I’ve watched this remarkable man grin and recall the good times.

Swinney’s grin has an origin story also. Dabo’s mom, Carol McIntosh has the same grin. Actually, truth researchers call this smile—that extends across the entire face into crinkles at the outer edges of the eyes—the authentic smile.

McIntosh spent her childhood in a polio ward enduring painful treatments. As a teenager, she chose to be thankful for her recovery. Her daily gratitude infected her children.

Those authentic Swinney smiles represent a choice to count blessings and to overcome troubles by committing to hard work. Revealing that he’d be labeled at an at-risk student, Swinney urged students to define themselves.

“What I learned in Pelham, Alabama is that you don’t have to let other people label you,” Swinney said to students. “You’re in control of your own destiny.”