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January 10, 2017
Q. For both players, Ben, we'll start with you first. I asked both of you Saturday if it was becoming tiresome that people didn't consider Clemson an elite program, and you said, "it's elite for us." Is it mission accomplished now with a big exclamation point after it?
BEN BOULWARE: Yeah, that's something we really didn't focus on too much. Like all season, especially in this bowl season, we controlled what we had to control. Like I said last night, we controlled our preparation, our attitude throughout the entire game, how hard we worked, and we knew that the output would take care of itself. So whether we were in the media or the outside world's elite label, we don't put too much focus on that. We just go about our business, and doing that won us a National Championship.
DESHAUN WATSON: Yeah, I agree with that. We don't focus on what the outside people are saying. We just focus on Clemson. We always just believe in each other, believe in what we can do and what we're going to do, and we just stay with that. We don't listen to all the media or the naysayers or anything like that because they don't control the game. They don't control the outcome. We just focus on what we can control, and that's going out there and performing and being the best we can be.
Q. Ben, you gave an impassioned speech on the podium last night talking about all the former players who have laid the foundation for you all to get to this point. Why did you decide to give a speech like that in that moment?
BEN BOULWARE: Because it's true. There's definitely -- the guys that came before us, our forefathers like C.J. Spiller, Tajh Boyd, all the guys I listed last night that laid the foundation out for us, the Stephone Anthonys, the Grady Jarretts that showed me how to work and go to work and grind every day and become a leader. So those are the ones that started this foundation, and this senior class is the one to put the finishing touches on it. But you've got to give respect where respect has been earned, and all those guys earned all the respect from us and all the respect from our university. So that's why I wanted to give them their shout-out.
Q. Obviously Hunter Renfrow caught the winning touchdown pass last night. I wanted to ask you, Deshaun, and also Ben as a team leader, what you admire most about Hunter and also just how happy you are for him to have a special moment like that?
DESHAUN WATSON: Just admire his work ethic and just the type of person he is, the heart he has, just to be just a loving person, and just regardless if he's getting the ball thrown to him or he's making plays or he's just -- he had the ball the whole game. It doesn't matter to him. As long as we get the win, that's what matters. He just goes to work each and every day, never complains, ever since he first walked on on scout team and was going against, in my eyes, the best defense I've in seen college football that year with Stephone and Grady and those guys over there on scout team and just putting in work and then Swinney brought him over to the varsity and the first team, and he was doing the same thing. Just being able to see his work kind of shine and letting the whole world see it is just awesome. He's just a better person than a football player, too.
DABO SWINNEY: I would add one thing to that. I thought about it last night. To me, that moment, that epitomizes what our program is all about. You've got the five-star quarterback throwing the game-winning touchdown to the walk-on wideout, and that's the epitome of our team. It doesn't matter if you're the five-star guy or the walk-on, best player plays. You earn it. There's no entitlement in our program. You earn it. Period. Everybody knows that.
I remember last year, everybody is like, why are we playing Hunter Renfrow. I mean, I'm at practice every day, and he's the best player, period. It's just amazing to me, if we lined all of our managers up, he'd be about the 10th guy you'd pick to be Hunter Renfrow.
But I'm just telling you, that's really truly what our program -- it epitomizes just a microcosm of our team and our program. It's really special when you have that type of situation. You know, these guys all buy in, and I'm really happy for Hunter, and he's exactly right, never says a word, never complains. He'd go through and catch one ball. He's just as happy as he can be.
But they played a lot of two man on us last night, and Hunter was our answer, because he's unbelievable in space. He's very difficult to handle. Deshaun did a great job of finding him, we made some adjustments, and man, I think he ended up with 10 catches. I didn't know that.
But that couldn't happen to a better guy.
Q. Deshaun and Dabo, how much of an art are those rub plays down on the goal line where the line between offensive pass interference and just picking a guy to get open?
DABO SWINNEY: Let me say this. Before you answers that, it should have been defensive pass interference. Yes, it's a rub play, it's a pick play. Artavis was actually trying to go pick the guy, but he couldn't get there because he got tackled. Unbelievable. I mean, literally the guy tackles him. It was a heck of a play. Renfrow did a nice job of setting it up, but yes, it's a rub play, and when you play zero coverage, man coverage, I mean, you're susceptible to crossing routes and mesh plays and things like that. We didn't quite get that opportunity. I mean, if you really watch the play, we never even got a chance to really rub the guy. But he had to play over the top. That's the way the play is designed. Renfrow, first of all, has to set his defender, and he made it happen.
DESHAUN WATSON: Mean, he said it all. I mean, it's the type of -- every offense has that type of play, and it was just a perfect call. We just knew they were going to be in cover zero, and when I saw the 5, actually I think they were expecting us to run it up the middle, but it was the best play call to get it to one of our best players in space, and that was Hunter, and it was just a perfect time to call it.
Q. Deshaun, by my count you were 10 years, three-and-a-half months old when Vince Young led Texas down the field against USC, and you brought it up last night. I was wondering if you have memories of that night and if so what specific things you might remember.
DESHAUN WATSON: Just remember that last night and sitting in my mom's room because I always have football on, and just seeing him really running to the corner of the end zone and kind of jumping up, and then at the end just seeing all the confetti come down. It's one of those games that last night where it just came down to the very end, and he pulled it out, and I did the same thing for my team.
Q. Ben and Deshaun, you talked about the players who have gotten you here. What gives you confidence that you are handing it off to players who will keep this program where it is now?
BEN BOULWARE: I think on the defensive side of the ball, that's all we've done the past four years, we've reloaded every year. We've been a top-10 defense. My sophomore year we lost eight guys to the league. Next year we were top 10. Last year we lost seven or eight guys. This year we're top 10 again.
So I know defensively we're not losing near as many guys on our side of the ball. I know Coach Venables and the rest of our staff is going to bring in some of the best talent in the country, so the talent is always going to be there. So that's not really something we worry about.
DESHAUN WATSON: I'd just say it's the coaching here. It's the next man up, and that's always been what Coach Swinney preaches, regardless if it's a five-star walk on. The best guy is going to play, and we always make sure the guys are prepared, regardless if they're freshmen or seniors. Like Coach Dabo and all the players before, they just pass the torch to us. They set it up, and for instance, Tajh passed it down to me and I'm going to pass it down to whoever is next, whoever earns that job. We all know that Clemson is only going to get better, and it's just going to keep growing and keep growing.
You think this is the best of Clemson, just wait the next five years. It's going to be even more exciting, more awesome.
Q. Deshaun, with your performance all season long, punctuated by last night, do you think you made a case for you being the first pick of the NFL Draft?
DESHAUN WATSON: I don't get caught up in that. I'm just going to blow my own planet, so regardless of where I go, whoever takes me, I'm going to go work hard and put in the work and just play my role and be the best I can be. I don't get caught up in all the hype of the draft and the first pick and all that stuff. God has a plan for me, and I just try to get better and go to work and be the best I can be.
Q. What can you say about the confidence you have in Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott and how they mesh with the rhythm of what you're trying to do out there?
DESHAUN WATSON: It's awesome. It's a team where there's no conflict or -- we're always on the same page. They just have my best interest, and whatever I'm comfortable with, whatever they're comfortable with, we're just on the same page all the time. We just do a good job of making sure we call the right plays at the right time, making sure we're in the right play, and just -- it just starts with love. We just have love and appreciation for each other just because it starts with us putting in the work and practice in the film room and even off the field, and we just have those type of relationships where we can connect, and it just kind of brings an ease, whenever big Jamestown comes on, and just go out there and just perform, and whatever they call, I'm comfortable with it and ready to go.
Q. Ben, you grew up a Clemson fan, you grew up near Clemson, you're so much a part of that community. What is the sense of pride that you're taking that trophy back to your hometown?
BEN BOULWARE: It's huge. Just really for our entire community, it's a bunch of blue-collar people down there just going to work. It's been 35 long years in that community, in Clemson, the entire upstate has been waiting a long time. For me and the rest of the guys on our team, to bring it back home, it's a very satisfying feeling, especially to see the fruit of your labor. We've been grinding all season, and that's kind of been our main thing we wanted to do, just bring it back to the fans. To finally get that done is very satisfying.
Q. Deshaun, you've told us so many times that you've prepared for big moments and that helps you stay calm. Ball in your hands, two minutes to play, your thought process leading that team down the field to win a national title?
DESHAUN WATSON: I said it last night, whenever they scored, just look at the clock, it was 2:01 on the clock, and I just kind of smiled and I told myself, they left too much time on the clock. We practice two-minute all the time, and we prepared for moments like this all the time, and we had so many situations throughout the season where we did it before halftime and at the end of the game. So it was just another opportunity for us to show what we're about, just on a bigger stage. Just an awesome time. God put us there for a reason, and we just went out there, and I told the guys, hey, let's be great, let's be special, and my offensive line gave me time, the receivers made big, big plays, and I just had pretty much the easy part, just getting the ball in the direction of the receivers and let them go out there and make the plays. It was an awesome feeling, and it was a great way to finish off the game last night.
Q. Deshaun and Ben, you could see the emotions pour out after the game was over last night on the field, but when did it really kind of hit you that you were national champs, and how did you celebrate the night? It doesn't look like you got much sleep.
DESHAUN WATSON: It kind of hit me whenever we recovered the onside kick at the end. I really couldn't move. I know people got pictures of me just sitting there just kind of tears in my eyes and just really joy just because of all the hard work we put in. Like Ben said earlier, just all the formers players that came through, C.J. Spiller, Tajh Boyd who made this program what it is today, and we're just kind of -- it was our time to solidify the deal of getting that National Championship, and Coach Swinney always preaches once you get one, you can get two, you can get three. There's many more to come, and just kind of knowing that all the hard work and times and early mornings, late nights is really coming to show.
BEN BOULWARE: Yeah, I realized it when he took a knee. I was waiting until then to make sure there was 0:00 on that clock. I knew anything could happen in college football, so I was -- when it hit zero, that's when I realized we're national champions. I didn't really celebrate last night. I didn't get any sleep at all. I was actually up all night. I did not get a minute of sleep. So I'm super tired. I feel like crap. Hopefully I can get some sleep on this plane ride home because I'm hurting really, really bad. (Laughter.)
Q. Coach, Renfrow's catch, everybody is going to remember, but how big was his tackle on the fumble that kept it to 17 instead of 21 because you talked Saturday, you can't let them score on defense.
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, you know, I felt like they've beaten everybody, they've scored on special teams and defense. Knots. They created a new name. That was a big goal of ours. That's a hidden play in the game. That play, the pooch punt by Deshaun on I think it was 4th-and-2 there, and just we thought about it, contemplated going for it, but they were up 10. We just could not get field position. I just felt like, let's try to flip the field here, get a stop, and kind of reload with good field position, and that's what happened.
That play and the tackle by Renfrow were just kind of two plays mixed in a bunch of plays, but man, those were monsters. That was one of the big keys for us. We were four for four in the red zone, four touchdowns, I believe, and they had three points. Don't ever ask me about turnovers again. I can't even say -- if you'd have told me we were going to have two turnovers against Alabama, we'd get beat. But our defense rose up. They got three points off of the two turnovers.
But that tackle was huge. Huge.
Q. Dabo, you guys have made this area in particular a key part of your recruiting, particularly with receivers. I wondered what you thought of Deon and Artavis who both made some pretty big plays last night.
DABO SWINNEY: Well, first of all, I told Deon after the game, I'm just so proud of that kid. It's just special. It's disappointing when you have -- it's like your children. Sometimes your children disappoint you and you have to discipline them. But when you have to do it in front of the whole world, that's a difficult thing to do. You know, we all have kids and we have issues, but that usually stays within our house, and it's unfortunate that -- but it comes with the territory. And there's consequences for your actions.
It was a very difficult situation last year at the Orange Bowl, left him at home when we went to Arizona, and for that kid to -- didn't let him go through spring -- for him to have the type of year that he had, I mean, it just -- he's changed his life forever, and it's just special to see it all culminate for him one year later in his hometown, to have the type of game that he had. Unbelievable, incredible spark that he gave us on that first touchdown with the screen. He had some huge plays. I'm just really, really happy for Deon. It's just very gratifying to see him grow up and mature and earn it. Like I said, he's changed his life forever.
And then Artavis, Ray-Ray, and I know Ray-Ray didn't -- I don't know if he had many catches last night, but man, Ray-Ray McCloud, he's a special young man, a special player, going to be a great player. So thankful we got him. But I'm very happy for Artavis.
And I think with Artavis, it just goes to show you the type of influence one person can have on another. He was a solid student. I wouldn't say he was a great student, a guy that was passionate about it, but all of a sudden he comes to Clemson as a mid-year, graduated early, comes to Clemson as a mid-year and he gets roomed up with Deshaun Watson, and all of a sudden Deshaun is taking 18 -- you're taking 18 hours? I'll take 18 hours. And the competitiveness. All of a sudden Artavis just kind of transformed into this incredibly committed young person.
He also graduated in three years, just like Deshaun, and is the leading receiver in the history of our school. Just a heck of a football player. He plays receiver, but he is a heck of a football player. This is a great area for us. We will continue to recruit down here, obviously, a ton, but I'm very happy for those guys. It's special, I know, for them to be able to come back and play in the Bucs' stadium and to win a National Championship is just incredible.
Q. Just talk about what you hope this national title will do for your program in terms of recruiting and keeping the winning culture going, how this will affect recruiting in terms of how you recruit now with a national title?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, we've been recruiting at a high level. That's not going to change certainly with this. It just kind of solidifies what we're doing. Biggest thing for us is continue to do a great job of evaluating, recruiting guys that fit our program, fit our culture, and then developing them. That's the key for us.
You know, not getting caught up in recruiting -- we're going to probably sign 14 or 15 guys this year. It's going to be a very small class next year, probably only 12 or 13 guys. We're a big freshman-sophomore team. We're not some heavy veteran team. We're a very, very young football team.
So I mean, it certainly doesn't hurt. The biggest thing was this just was the only thing we hadn't done. It was the next step for us. I mean, it just -- there was kind of -- when I got the job, there were like lids on the program like, okay, Clemson, you can only do this, but don't go any higher than that. You can win nine but let's don't win 10. We just have slowly knocked off the lids off the program, and this was the last one. And to do it against Alabama, who's been the best, and the teams that we've played, the teams that we've beaten over the last eight years, there's just really -- I mean, we're selling results, bottom line.
You look at 135 seniors, 129 graduates, and we've got 21 more graduates fixing to add to that number, every one of these seniors will be graduated by May, every single one of them. You know, that's -- we think that we have a great program to sell, and we're very proud of that. The best is yet to come for us. I mean, this is not -- this is not the end-all. It's a great moment, and it's something that we needed to get done. But you know, Thursday I'm going to have a team meeting with the 2017 team, and there will be a new group of seniors sitting in the front row, new challenges, new journey, kind of lay out the vision a little bit for next year, we'll celebrate this weekend, this championship with our banquet and the parade and all that stuff, and then we'll start over.
You know, it's just, you never arrive. You're always striving to get better. What's next? For us it'll be, like I said, enjoying this moment, but getting excited about coming back and seeing if we can charge back up the mountain next year.
Q. Speaking of recruiting, what did it mean for your program to be able to land Deshaun Watson? What has he meant to the program? Also for us Florida guys, he said he always wanted to go to Florida; how hard of a recruiting battle was that for you?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I mean, he was the best player that's ever come through there, so it meant a lot. His final record was 32-3. He set the standard. I mean, high standard, graduated in three years, honor roll student, represented the program in an incredible way, unbelievable leadership, so easy to coach, and like I say, lost three -- he lost in the National Championship game, he scored 40 points, threw for 400-some yards. He lost to Pitt, he threw for 570 yards, scored 42 points, and he lost to Georgia Tech where he only played about 12 to 15 plays. He got hurt.
So he's an incredible winner, and we're not sitting here without Deshaun Watson. This is what he came to do.
But he called me on signing day, which is in February, the first Wednesday in February every year, and he called me on that day, on signing day of his sophomore year in high school and said, Coach, I'm ready to be your quarterback. I actually tried to talk him out of it. I said, listen, Deshaun, you're just in the tenth grade. Why don't we let this just kind of marinate a little while. You know, because I knew he was an unbelievable -- I knew what we were going to be dealing with and all the other schools. I literally tried to talk him out of it. But he said, no, Coach, this is what I want to do, and that's the epitome of Deshaun Watson. He knew what he wanted to do early. He didn't take another official visit anywhere, stayed true to his word, and he came in and went to work.
The rest is history.
Q. Dabo, six seconds on the clock on the game-winning touchdown, if the clock is at five seconds, do you still run that play or do you kick the field goal, and/or if that play is incomplete, you have one or two seconds on the clock, do you go for the win or send it to overtime?
DABO SWINNEY: Five seconds, yes, we run the same play. I felt like it was going to be a four-second play. It's going to be in and out. I felt like I could get a time-out with one second. Less than that, we kick the field goal, and we go into overtime and see what happens. Our mentality was to play to win. I was trying to hang on to a time-out. I was just kind of guarding it with my life. That's why we clocked the ball with 22 seconds, because I didn't want to get in a situation where we're having to run what we call red field goal. The clock is running, you try to run your guys out there on a red field goal situation. It's a long way to go, guys coming off the sideline, and I just -- I didn't want to get into that situation, so I was trying with everything I had to keep one time-out.
I think we called a time-out, I think it was -- I think it was 14 seconds maybe, and that was a fun time-out. It was a fun -- that was a fun huddle. That was a fun huddle.
We took a shot with Leggett, it's called Menu 2 Special, and D-Dub through it away, wasn't there, came back, and literally checked from the sideline to Mike, and we got PI. So there was a lot of discussion there on what the right play was, and that's why I love working with Tony and Jeff, because we have such a great chemistry, and they have such trust, too, with each other. But Jeff was just -- I mean, he was adamant on the play. I wasn't as sure because we had run that earlier in the game and they had given us a different coverage. But we were inside the 5, and they had pretty much shown basically zero coverage inside the 5, and Jeff was just -- he was adamant about it. I said, okay, let's go.
I felt good about it with Deshaun because it was going to get him on the move, so I knew we wouldn't get a sack. So I felt very confident with six seconds that we could manage that situation, and if we didn't hit it right there, then we would have kicked the field goal for sure. But when we had it down there and 30 seconds, 20 seconds, we were playing to win. We were not playing to kick a field goal. We were playing to try to win the game, and we were able to put it in No. 4's hands, and he got it done.
Q. Dabo, you're saying the best is yet to come after winning the national title. Y'all are about to move into a nice little facility in a couple weeks. Does that sort of accentuate the feeling that this is sort of a beginning for you guys?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, it's crazy, man. I'll tell you, this is a dream come true. That's one of the things I told the team during the season. On our practice field every day we watched that facility get built, and that was -- I said, we're sitting here watching this -- this is something special being built right here, but we're also building something special on this field. They're putting the finishing touches, we're putting the finishing touches on this season, and to be able to move into that building in a couple weeks, I have not packed one thing, by the way -- oh, my God, I dread that.
But to be able to move the national champion into that building, it's just incredible. To take this trophy and have that right there when you walk in this new spectacular building, it's just really surreal. It really is, and it's very fitting. Just a blessing.
But yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's no doubt in my mind that the best is yet to come for us. I mean, we're going to continue to improve, continue to get better. Winning National Championships are hard. I mean, it's very, very difficult to do. It's been 35 years at Clemson. Like I said, in 2011, we had 30 years since we've been to the Orange Bowl. I'm like, listen, I don't know when we're getting back, but it ain't going to be 30 years, and now we've been to three Orange Bowls and won two of them. It won't be 35 years before Clemson will do this again.
God willing, I'll be a part of it, but this program is built to last.
Q. The Heisman winner comes from the ACC. The ACC had by far the best bowl record of any conference and now the national champion comes from the ACC. What does all that success mean for the conference, and are the days of perception that this conference might take a backseat to anyone else out there, are they kind of gone for good now?
DABO SWINNEY: I think all you media folks need to change your stories. It sounds good. I've been in this league a long time, and this league has never gotten the respect that it deserves. You know, but I said about five years ago or something, just keep your mouth shut and go play. If we want to change the story, then we've got to change it from the inside out. Let's line them up, let's go play them. You've got to win those games. I told my AD that. I told Terry Don Phillips that. We've got to go play people and we've got to win. We've got to find a way. That's the only way it's going to change.
And then as a conference everybody has taken pride in that. And I knew. I mean, I watch on tape, I watched all the Big Ten film and all that stuff. This is the best conference in college football. It's the deepest, it's the most competitive, 11 bowl teams, and it's back-to-back years, something like that, that we've done that. You look at the head-to-head records against the SEC, it's just -- it's just incredible what this -- you don't want to play a team from this conference. You just don't. I don't care; name one. That's why we're ready. That's why we're ready to go play Oklahoma two years in a row. That's why we're ready to go play Ohio State two out of the last four years. We're ready, because of what we see week in and week out in this conference.
Look at the NFL Draft, and the SEC is a great conference, too, but the best and deepest league is this league that we're competing in, and incredible coaches, great coaches. So you know, it's just how I feel about it.
Q. Dabo, could you talk to me when you guys rolled in on the buses, you kind of walked back and kind of talked to your team a little bit, what that message was that you told them as you were getting off that bus?
DABO SWINNEY: No, I'm going to keep that between -- I ride the defensive bus everywhere I go, and just had -- I've never really done that to be honest with you. They just get off the bus. But just had a little something on my heart, I wanted to share it with them, and what happens on the bus stays on the bus, right? (Laughter.)
Can I say something? You local guys, our local media, I don't know who all is here, but the guys who cover Clemson day in and day out, man, I'm happy for you guys, too. This is your profession, and what a great moment for y'all, as well, what a great experience for y'all to get a chance to be along and cover this team. You guys do a great job. Y'all have done an awesome job of covering our team, and we don't always agree on everything, but y'all are class people, and I'm happy for all of you local guys that are there every day, day in and day out, that y'all get a chance.
We're not at the Chainsaw Bowl somewhere. Y'all got a chance to spend your company's money and stay in good hotels and eat good food and go on a heck of a run, man. Not everybody gets to do that, either, and y'all deserve it, as well. I'm happy for y'all.
Q. Dabo, speaking of money, Clemson historically doesn't have the most amount of revenue compared to some of your competitors. Through the years, did you have to think outside the box to win, and how much do you think money matters to winning in college football?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I mean, there's no doubt, if we'd have walked out there last night and brought our checkbooks, we got our butt kicked. We're comparing budgets and checkbooks and all that stuff, we'd get how many five-stars and we'd get dominated. You know, but it's -- it matters. You have to be competitive. For me, it's been an unbelievable journey. I laid out a vision eight years ago and said, hey, we needed to change how Clemson thought, and I remember sitting down with Terry Don Phillips, and I told him, I said, hey, look, I don't really care what you pay me. My first contract I didn't even read it. I just signed it. I didn't even read it. I said, I really don't care. Leave me on the contract that I had. I said, but you've got to give me a chance to build an infrastructure here, and we've got to compete.
So it matters. There's no question. And then I had to -- there was times where I had to do things financially to kind of make it work. But I believe you get what you earn. You know, I needed to go prove it. I needed to earn that. I have no problem with that. I didn't want anything given to me. My message to Terry Don was just let me do this, and we're going to build something. We're not going to take any shortcuts, and slowly but surely we kind of broadened those boundaries.
I think it matters. We're incredibly competitive, but if we're comparing alumni bases and things like that, I mean, heck, we go out to play Ohio State last week, and go Lord have mercy, I thought we were in Columbus when we showed up, there were so many Ohio State people there.
You know, that's what's special about this moment. That's the one thing I told our team was the theme of this whole playoff was chasing greatness. Whoever came up with that, what a great theme. And I said, yeah, that's one of the opportunities we have is to give hope to a lot of people out there, that greatness is for everyone. It's not just for the Alabamas and the Ohio States and the Notre Dames and Texases. Just bloom where you're planted. Be about the right things. Be efficient. You know, I wouldn't take anything from my staff. I really wouldn't. I've got a great group of young guys that maybe don't have some of the pedigrees of some of these schools with some of their support staff and things like that, but we've got a good group that works their tails off, and I'm very blessed with the support that I have at Clemson. No doubt about it. We've come a long way, but we've earned it. We've earned it. Nobody has given us anything. We have earned every step of the way what we've been able to do, and I'm appreciative of the board and the president and the AD for giving me the resources to have a chance to compete at the highest level.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports