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January 9, 2017
Clemson - 35, Alabama - 31
DABO SWINNEY: Oh, man. Just, first of all, I'd say congratulations to Alabama. What an unbelievable, unprecedented run they've been on. Never seen anything like it. Incredibly -- just a great champion.
But they lost the wrong game just like we lost the wrong one last year. We were both 14-1 last year but we lost the wrong one and we're both 14-1 this year. Just hats off to those guys. What an unbelievable champion they are. What a fight.
You know, I mean, I don't know if I can -- I don't know if I'm going to be able to stomach watching that one any time soon. That has to be one of the greatest games of all time, just absolutely incredible, to have to take the field and go down the field to win the game, that's what it's made of. That's what I told 'em when it was over. This is what it's all about right here, boys. They fought. They fought for every play, and I just -- I said it out on the field, and I'll say it again: For me personally, only God can do this. I mean, there's just no other explanation for me. It's not anything to do with me. It's God working through me and the staff and these players.
Eight years ago our goal was to work our tails off and eventually get Clemson back on top, and tonight that's a reality. It truly is. The paw is flying on top of that mountain tonight. We saw the top of it last year, didn't get quite there. Tonight we took that next step. It was really the only thing we hadn't done in the last eight years, and we got it done.
As I said earlier, it's not just for this team, it's a credit to all my teams, all my players. They all share in this moment. They truly do. They truly do. Because what they did was meant for them at that time, but this was meant for this team. This was this team's responsibility. This was this team's mission, and there was really only one lid left on the program, and that was to win the whole dadgum thing.
Now that one has been knocked off, and I just am so proud of these players. When I came to Clemson as an assistant, I saw the -- the theme of the playoffs was chasing greatness, right? That's what it was. And when I came to Clemson as an assistant, I truly saw the greatness and the potential of Clemson University.
I can't tell you how humbled I am, blessed and so thankful to be a part of helping get Clemson back on top, this moment, 35 years, and doing something that a lot of people didn't think we could do.
I'm just so thankful for that opportunity, and I'm excited about continuing to help Clemson be the best. I truly am. We're going to work our tail off. As I said out there earlier, one thing about our team is once we've done something once, we've done it again. We needed to win one division, we've done it five times. We've done many things many times, but this one we hadn't, and hopefully we can win a few more before they put me out to pasture. But I'm just so thankful.
I'm proud of these seniors, led by this guy right here. These seniors have just been unbelievable, the way they've worked and fought all year, their belief, the leadership. They're all graduates. This guy graduated in three years. He's the best player in the country. If anybody doubts that right now, you just -- it's just ridiculous.
As I said earlier, and I'll say it again, he didn't lose out on the Heisman, the Heisman lost out on him. They lost out on an opportunity to be attached to this guy forever. But this guy, his class, his humility, this was his Heisman tonight, and this was really what he wanted. This is what he came to Clemson to do.
He's just been an unbelievable, unbelievable player, preparer, leader, and ambassador for this university. He set the standard. He set the bar for everybody coming through. It's just unreal. Over a 3.0, and I'm so proud of him. I mean, this guy deserves it. I told him, I said, you deserve it. And I'm just happy that we have this moment to share in it, and the rest of these seniors, they'll take this with them forever. They'll take this into their marriages, they'll take this into their jobs. The moment will fade, but the work ethic, the will to win, the passion, the courage, the guts, the teamwork, the belief, how to think the right way, they'll take that with them forever.
I'm just so happy that I had these guys in my life, and blessed to be a part of it.
Appreciate Hunter, ol' Hunter Renfrow. He's just incredible.
Alabama, they're a challenge. They played a lot of two man. We just kind of hung in there. We made some mistakes, really played great defense outside of about three plays, four plays, and great drive by them there at the end. Unbelievable play to get the first down there.
But at the end of the day, we had one second and we got it done with one second left, and we're the national champs. To God be the glory.
Q. Dabo, I saw you take Deshaun and give him a hug and say something on the stage. What did you say to him, and how many more ways can you describe what he's meant to this program?
DABO SWINNEY: I said I love you. I said, man, this is what you came here to do, and so proud of you. We did it. We did it, what we set out to do. You know, it's been mission critical, man. If it ain't mission critical, we ain't interested, and we kept it that way all the way.
This guy has just been so easy to coach. He's so easy to coach. Loves to be coached. Loves the grind of it. And at the end of the day, we left no doubt tonight. We wanted to play Alabama because now y'all got to change your stories. You got to change the narrative. Y'all got to mix it up. The guy that called us a fraud, ask Alabama if we're a fraud. Was the name Colin Cowherd? I don't know him, never met him. Ask Alabama if we're a fraud. Ask Ohio State if we're a fraud. Ask Oklahoma if we're a fraud. The only fraud is that guy, because he didn't do his homework. I hope y'all print that.
Q. Talking just now, a little bit of the people doubted us card. At the same time, I think there's a difference between that, and it sounds like you did expect to be here. Is that a fair sentiment, that --
DABO SWINNEY: There was no upset tonight. That's the last thing I told them when we left the locker room. I said, when we win the game tonight I don't want to hear one word about this being an upset. The only upset is going to be if we don't win the dadgum game. I don't want to hear one word about it. This is an expectation, the last thing I told them. We expected to win the game. We expected to win it last year. When we take the field, we expect to win because we work our tails off, and we got a committed group of people, staff, players, everybody.
You know, with this game right here, we beat the last seven national champions, all of them, this year. I don't know who tweeted that out, but I appreciate that little nugget. We beat the last seven national champs, we beat this season. So absolutely we expected it. And one of the questions right before the game was how are you going to block these guys, like we're chopped liver. I get so tired of that stuff. I really do.
So yes, we absolutely expected to win the game, with full respect to the University of Alabama, because they are incredible. I mean, just incredible what they've done. And they'll be back. Heck, they'll probably be right back next year. Nick is going to buy my dinner this year, though. (Laughter.)
But I guarantee you, they'll be right back next year, and hopefully we'll have a chance to have a rubber match. Love it nothing more.
Q. Coach Swinney, how does it feel to win a national title as a coach compared to as a player, a very select club, and then also Saban was out there searching for you? What did it mean that he stuck it out in the midst of that madness to find you?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I appreciate that. He's been incredibly gracious to me. He was that way last year, and I -- I mean, it was crazy. I kept trying to find him, and we finally got each other, and he was great. I mean, what are you going to say? His team played their hearts out. I mean, it was an unbelievable game, both teams, just two heavyweight champions. I said the other day, I don't know who asked me, somebody asked me the other day what my favorite sequel was, and I said, Rocky. First one was kind of a draw, the draw goes to the champ, but the second one, you know, they were both kind of right at the last second, Rocky gets up, and that's kind of how it was tonight.
You're talking about one second? Just incredible. An incredible performance.
Coach Saban, obviously they're very disappointed that it didn't go their way, but I promise you, his team fought their tails off. But we were the better team. We were the better team. Disappointed in some of the mistakes we made in the first half, but we weren't leaving here without that trophy. We got it done. But he was very gracious.
Q. Dabo, can you just take us through say the last five minutes? As you're watching on the sidelines, what's going through your mind, especially on the last scoring drive?
DABO SWINNEY: I'm just trying to help them have the right play call, manage the game, manage the clock, squeeze as much time as we could, and once we -- then we got in field goal range. But we were playing to win. We were putting it in No. 4's hands, and we would have kicked the field goal if we'd have had to right there on that last play, if we'd have just had a couple seconds, we'd have kicked it and gone to overtime, but we were playing to win and making sure that we had the right call.
Man, the staff did a great job, Tony Elliott, Jeff Scott, they just did a phenomenal job. Tony, it's amazing how really we all worked together, but those two guys did a great job, and the last call, Jeff was adamant about it. He was adamant about the call. We got man coverage, like we needed to get right there. They did a great job setting the route up, and Renfrow popped loose, and DW delivered the ball and it was an unbelievable moment. I wasn't sure if it was over and I saw one second. Again, literally, yesterday we ended our walk-through practice yesterday, we practiced like right across the street, I mean, right next to the stadium at the Bucs' facility, and as we finished practice yesterday and I called them yesterday -- we always finish with our victory formation, and I said, tomorrow night in that stadium is how we're going to end the game. I think they were going to get a chance to do that when we surprised onside and got it, so then they tell us that we've got to take a knee, but it was just meant to be. It really was.
You know, what a way to win a National Championship, to be able to go out on the field with one second and take a knee. See this guy get one more snap. Just special.
Q. I had a chance to speak with your mother before the game and she was very confident that her son could get it done. Saw her after the game probably about 30 minutes after the game, and she was still crying tears of joy. Who's happier, your mom or you?
DABO SWINNEY: Oh, man, everybody is happy. You know, everybody is happy. My mom is a special lady. You know, just -- she's 70-ish, and I'm just so happy and thankful that she got this moment. Even though my dad is not here with us right now, I know he's here, and I know he is going crazy up in heaven right now, I promise you. It's just incredible.
But I'm happy for our fans. They deserved it. I know that our fan base deserved it. I'm happy for our board, President Clements, Dan Radakovich, and two people I'm especially happy for is Terry Don Phillips, because eight-and-a-half years ago he gave me the opportunity to lead this program and let me do it my way, let me do it the way I felt like we needed to do it, and trusted we with that, and then handed the baton to Dan Radakovich, and Dan has just been amazing to work with. He helped us kind of take it to the next level, and I'm so happy for that.
And then my wife, Kathleen. You know, she's been with me forever. When I didn't have a car, she didn't care. When I was living at a friend's house, she didn't care. She was always there. And you know, we've been married 23 years. She was a part of me and encouraged me to believe in myself, to walk on at Alabama, and she was there when I got the job. She was there when Coach Stallings hired me full-time. She was there when we won the National Championship. She's been there every step of the way, and I'm not here without her. She's just been a rock for me, and I'm so thankful for my wife, my three boys. For them to have this moment is surreal. My son, Will, my oldest son is a senior, and he's been keeping the touch chart on me on the sideline for me his whole life, and this was his last game as a Clemson Tiger as a fan. He's actually going to come play for us next year, going to be a slot, going to hopefully help out ol' Renfrow right here.
And then for Drew, my middle son. He's a junior. He's kept the first, second, third down run-pass chart for me. And then my man Clay, who was born in Clemson, for those three boys to have the opportunity to share a moment like this, I can't describe that. I really can't. I cannot describe it.
And I wish Coach Stallings had been here. I know he's watching. I talked to him yesterday. Oh, man, I can only -- I can't wait to talk to Coach Stallings. His grandson is on the team. Kevin Turner's son is on the team, Lemanski Hall is here. So many Alabama-Clemson connections, guys that I won the National Championship with, and to do it again is something that -- I didn't know if it would ever happen. Been working since 1993 to get back, and we got it done tonight. So it's just special.
Wish I could hug Coach Stallings' neck, too, because I wouldn't be here without him, and can't wait to talk to him.
Q. Hunter, can you talk about where you were when you took the leap of faith coming out of Myrtle Beach, to go ahead and walk on, to bet on yourself? Could you picture what happened tonight ever happening when you were a senior?
HUNTER RENFROW: Yeah, never in a million years. It's been such a journey for me. It's like I got knocked out in the third quarter and this was all a dream. Credit to -- I think my faith in God really got me through, just passing up the money to go to App State and come and playing for a guy like Coach Swinney, and a quarterback like Deshaun is pretty special.
Q. Deshaun, a few weeks ago Coach Swinney mentioned that you and a few other guys on the offensive side of the ball were not coming back but you didn't want to talk about it until the season was through. Now that it's behind you, can you talk about the difficulty of the decision to leave, and also the ideal way that your career finished?
DESHAUN WATSON: Yeah, it was a tough decision. You know, Clemson is a special place. I've enjoyed every single moment since I came in in January of 2014. Three years kind of flew by.
But I think it's my time to go, just kind of end it with a bang, and I felt like Coach Swinney knew my time was up.
I've enjoyed, like I said, the three years, and I just wanted to sign my name and end it with an exclamation point, and I think I did that. Moments like this I'll never forget. Clemson was the best three years of my life, and credit me as the person I am today. Through my faith, as a citizen, as a football player, as a student, I've learned so much, and it's just been special.
Q. Deshaun, you had said after the Heisman that you wanted to win the trophy that no one voted on. What was going through your mind, especially the last -- you guys scored, then they scored, and then you had the last drive. How much of that was in your mind that you could win that one?
DESHAUN WATSON: Knew it. We work on two-minute drill pretty much almost every day in practice whenever we have time. But I just flashed back from last year when they scored, and when we scored, and we were down five but we ran out of time. But I just smiled right when they scored. I seen the two minutes and one second on the clock, and I just smiled and I just knew, I just told my guys, hey, let's be legendary, let's go be great. I told myself, they left too much time on the clock. Last year they ran out the time, but this time they left us a little bit too much. I knew my guys was going to make plays and I knew my offensive line was going to give me time, and I'm thankful for the people I have around me and believing in me to get the ball and those guys making big-time plays, and we just drove down. And I knew on that last play that something we always work on, if Tay do his job, Renfrow was going to find a way into the end zone, and that's what we did, and we pulled it out.
Q. Take us through that last play when you realized there was very little margin for error. What did you see in that last play and you realized another second or two and you would have run out of time?
DESHAUN WATSON: Just kind of slowed down the moment, just kind of smiled to myself and just knew because I knew that we were inside the 5 and I knew they were going to play straight cover zero man, and I knew if Tay make his block and get the little pick, Renfrow was going to get in the end zone. I kind of smiled, and I knew before I even snapped the ball it was going to be a touchdown. All I had to do was just get the ball to him. I slowed down the moment, everyone made their blocks and did their part, and I did my part, and we pulled it out.
Q. A lot has been made about how tight-knit the community is at Clemson, how you guys have had kind of feel-good college program. What separates your program, makes it unique, and this National Championship unique maybe from other schools?
DESHAUN WATSON: You know, it just starts with the man that was just sitting here, Coach Swinney. It's just all about joy, and it's not all about football. It's about being the best man you can be, the best student you can be, and I feel like football comes last. I think if you be a great citizen, a great student, and just do the right things, football is going to take care of itself. You've been doing football your whole life.
It's more than just putting on the helmet and shoulder pads and going out there playing. He cares about the heart. It just starts from there and the culture and just kind of spreads throughout the program. Clemson is just a special place. That's one of the reasons why I picked there because, man, it's something you can't really explain, you just have to go visit and see. Once you step on campus, you don't even have to go visit a game but tour the school, you'll just feel the vibe. It's just joy, people are happy, students are happy, and everyone just respects one another, and it's just great.
HUNTER RENFROW: Yeah, I think Deshaun hit the nail on the head saying football is last at Clemson. I think Coach Swinney really does try to serve our hearts instead of our talents. I know we've said that before. And I think that's why he's so special and that's why he's the greatest coach in college football.
Q. Can you talk about how fate sort of brought you to Clemson? I think I heard you say last week you wanted to go to Florida originally, and how sort of fate brought you to Clemson and why you made that decision?
DESHAUN WATSON: Yeah, growing up Florida was my dream school, huge fan, like I said before. I loved Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, all those guys, and I just wanted to go there. But I found Christ when I was in ninth grade, and I just started praying on my decision. My mom got sick, and so it was kind of -- she was praying about it. She knew everything was going to take care of itself, and she just wanted me to go play football and keep praying and make sure I made the right decision. I just felt like that day I committed to Clemson, God was talking to me, and I just felt like the time was perfect. That's what I wanted to do, and I stuck through it, and it was the best decision of my life. I just thank God that he was a part of it and gave me that opportunity.
Q. When you were describing what was going through your head before the touchdown pass, are you aware at that moment of what's at stake there? Are you thinking, I'm going to score the touchdown, or are you thinking I'm about to throw a touchdown to win the National Championship?
DESHAUN WATSON: Just kind of throw a touchdown. But just everything -- like I said before, I just quiet everything. I couldn't hear the crowd. I couldn't really -- I was just in my zone. I just felt just at peace. It just kind of went through there, and once I threw the touchdown, I just kind of ran off. At that moment -- honestly, it's like a blur. The only thing I remember is Renfrow going to the sideline, and I'm just sitting there, and the guys just coming, coming over there. That's all I really remember. It just happened so fast. It's just incredible.
Q. Deshaun, can you talk a little about the trust that Hunter has built up in you? Obviously he came and he wasn't a scholarship athlete when he first came here, and it's really obvious over the last two years about how credible he's become in the program.
DESHAUN WATSON: He's just one of those guys that came in from day one and just went to work. You know, he started off on scout team as a freshman because he was a walk-on, and all the guys on defense were saying, hey, Hunter is going to be special. He just kind of -- whatever he's doing today and the level he's doing that on scout team, and all the defensive guys were getting mad and pissed off, so Swinney one day kind of went over there and watched him, hey, let's move him over here, and we needed a guy to kind of be a spark to this offense, and he plugged in and kind of -- the sky's been the limit for him. He just always goes to work, never complains, never draws attention to him. He always tries to find a way to do his job and play his role and help the team win, regardless if he scores touchdowns, catches balls, and then he just knows what the defense is doing. He studies film all the time, so if I see something and if he sees something, he'll come over and tell me, tell me what they're doing, how they're playing him, and we'll correct it. He's just a guy that goes to work and is just special and just brings joy and makes everyone else around him better.
Q. Hunter, at what point did people stop thinking of you as the walk-on guy? Was it last year against Alabama or was there some point before that? Also they said in the locker room you played every snap and you maybe had to get some fluids. What did it take for you to get through to the end of this one?
HUNTER RENFROW: I felt like definitely nationally last year I kind of got some recognition in the Alabama game. But it really started at two points I feel like over the last two years. This crazy thing about a year-and-a-half ago, I was a walk-on still, nobody really knew about me. But like Deshaun said earlier, practice, it all started in practice. I went against, two years ago, Mackensie Alexander, Stefan Anthony. Those guys were the No. 1 defense in the nation, and that's something I've carried over, that if I can get open against those guys and the guys we have now in practice, then I can get open against anyone.
And then last year, the Notre Dame game. Such a big game in the rain in a hurricane, and I made a catch on the sideline and felt like I kind of belonged. As far as the whole game, I played every snap except one. When they punted it down at the 1-yard line we had to go heavy formation. I just knew I was going to have to give everything I had. I've dreamed about it since I was a kid, all of us, and I couldn't let these seniors go down like we did last year. Just love them, and just appreciative for the opportunity.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports