Derrick Roberts: Dabo, thanks for speaking with me today. Are you as ready as I am for some spring football?
Dabo Swinney: No problem. Heck yea I’m ready for some spring football. I’m always ready for more football.
DR: 2013 was another big season for the Clemson Tigers although the loftiest of expectations weren’t met (National Championship) – how does it feel to know you are at the middle of all that success?
Dabo: I guess I suppose I’m just like the butter on a big ole biscuit of excellence. Everybody wants a bite of that. Wouldn’t you?
DR: It does sound tasty. One person in particular, Steve Spurrier, has especially enjoyed eating that biscuit whole in the Gamecocks’ past 5 matchups with your Tigers. How do you expect to reverse that trend?
Dabo: Is it 5 times in a row now? That sounds like a mistake. I’m sure it’s closer to 2.
DR: No it’s 5.
Dabo: Agree to disagree? I mean I’m looking at my fact sheet right here and I see 2.
DR: …Let’s talk a little bit about your approach to coaching. How do you keep your guys motivated on a day-to-day basis?
Dabo: Boring stuff mostly. We as a coaching staff try every single day to give our guys fundamental building blocks that contribute to their being a successful player in our program. Now that can range anywhere from impromptu pillow fights to either myself or another coach on staff giving them a wet-willy – really whatever it takes to get through to them. In drastic cases I’ll hang a picture of the player in question up on my office door and throw ninja stars at it until they start to listen. I actually picked that up from my time at Alabama.
DR: Throwing ninja stars at a player’s picture?
Dabo: Oh. No. I meant having a door to my office. It’s kind of important if you need to tell someone something important.
DR: Tell me a little about Dabo Swinney the high school football player.
Dabo: Well my nickname in high school was ‘robot man’. I guess because I never got tired and had super strength and stuff. My Senior year – I believe it was halftime of my last home game – I remember my head coach begging me to sit out the rest of the game. We were playing a smaller school and I had put up good numbers in the first 2 quarters. Anyway, so he’s asking me to sit out and the whole time he’s talking I can hear the fans out in the stands chanting, “Robot Man! Robot Man! BEEP BOOP BOP BIP BEEP! ROBOT MAN!” I totally was going to play too, but it started to rain while we were in the locker room [during halftime] and another reason I was nicknamed ‘robot man’ was because I was terrified of water. I mean I didn’t bathe for like 2 years at one point. I mean I was ‘robot man’. So anyway, I sat, and we won the game. I think I still had somewhere around 37 receptions for 672 yards and 9 touchdowns – not quite my best 1st half performance but considering the circumstances I’ll take it.
DR: I understand you ventured into the restaurant business a few years ago? What has that been like?
Dabo: Yea that was [laughs] terrifying overall actually. I started a breakfast food restaurant, specifically pancakes, and things didn’t quite go the way we planned.
DR: Dabo’s Breakfast Roadhouse?
Dabo: That’s it [motioning with hands] Home of the Square Pancake!
DR: How is the square pancake business?
Dabo: Surprisingly nonexistent and at times violent. Our first location was burned to the ground on 3 separate occasions. And all that aside, do you realize how difficult it is to pour pancake batter into a square? Try it when you get home – 4 out of 5 are going to be circles. You gotta throw those out and start over. I think we ended up throwing away about 240,000 of 240,200 pancakes we cooked. Not the thinnest margins by any means but not as much room for profit there as I had hoped.
DR: I would have never imagined it being such a risky endeavor.
Dabo: Trust me on this one: put your money into round pancakes or no pancakes. Any other shape is just too speculative.
DR: Got it. So are there any games you’re looking forward to this year?
Dabo: Not really. Football pretty much terrifies me. But that’s where I draw my strength from – fear. Every game is a battle and I am General Custer – always making a brilliant and victorious last stand.
DR: I don’t think Custer’s last stand was all that victorious…
Dabo: Nope. You’re 0-2. Like I said I’ve got my fact sheet right here. I can do this all day.
DR: Whatever you say. So you’re losing two pretty important players in Tahj Boyd and Sammy Watkins in 2014. How do you plan on replacing them?
Dabo: Well it’s simple. Most coaches have this thing called a depth chart. I’ll just see who was behind them on that piece of paper and bump them up a notch. It’s not square pancake science by any stretch.
DR: How long do you see yourself running the Clemson football program?
Dabo: Every night before I closed my eyes when I was growing up I prayed I could one day get paid to do the two things I love the most: Go gray Clemson sweatshirt shopping and coaching Clemson football. I’d say I have those two goals pretty well nailed down.
DR: I’d say so. Are there any parting words you would like to leave the readers with today?
Dabo: Absolutely. I am not Derek Dooley nor have I ever been Derek Dooley’s stunt-double.