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January 10, 2017
THE MODERATOR: Joining us for the news conference is Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, Deshaun Watson and Hunter Renfrow.
Coach, an opening statement.
COACH SWINNEY: Oh, man. First of all, I say congratulations to Alabama. What an unbelievable, unprecedented run they've been on. Never seen anything like it. Just a great champion.
But they lost the wrong game, just like we lost the wrong one last year. You know, both 14-1 last year, but we lost the wrong one. We're both 14-1 this year.
Hats off to those guys. What an unbelievable champion they are. What a fight. I mean, I don't know if I'm going to be able to stomach watching that one anytime soon. That has to be one of the greatest games of all times.
Absolutely incredible to have to take the field, go down the field to win the game. That's what I told them when it was over, That's what it's all about right here, boys.
They fought. They fought for every play. I said it out on the field, 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. That's a reality. It truly is. The flag, the paw was flying on top of that mountain last year. We saw it last year, didn't quite get there. Last night 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 time, it's a credit to all my teams, all my players. They all share in this moment, they truly do. They truly do. 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.
There was really only one lid left on the program, and that was to win the whole daggum thing. Now that one's been knocked off. I just am so proud these players.
The theme of the Playoffs was 'Chasing Greatness', right? That's what it was. 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, doing something that a lot of people didn't think we could do. I'm so thankful for that opportunity.
I'm excited about continuing to help Clemson be the best. I truly am. We're going to work our tails off. As I said out there earlier, one thing about our team is once we've done something once, we'll do it again. We needed to win one division. We've done it five names. We have done many things many times, but this one we hadn't. 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, it's just ridiculous.
As I said earlier, 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. This is really what he wanted. It's 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. I'm so proud of him. He deserves it. I told him, You deserve it.
I'm just happy we have this moment to share in it. The rest of these seniors, they'll take it 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. Blessed to be a part of it.
Appreciate 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. Great drive by them there at the end. Unbelievable play to get the first down there.
At the end of the day, we had one second. We got it done with one second left and we're the national champs. To God be the glory.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions for coach.
Q. Dabo, I saw you take Deshaun and give him a hug and say something to him on the stage. What did you say to him? How many more ways can you describe what he's meant to this program?
COACH SWINNEY: I said, I love you. I said, Man, this is what you came here to do. So proud of you. We did it. We did it.
It's what we set out to do. You know, it's been mission critical, man. If it's not mission critical, we ain't interested. We've kept it that way all the way. This guy has been so easy to coach. He's so easy to coach. Loves to be coached. Loves the grind of it.
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, y'all 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. What was his name, Colin Cowherd? 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. Coach, you're talking just now, a little bit of 'the people doubted us' card. It sounds like you did expect to be here. Is that a fair sentiment?
COACH SWINNEY: There was no upset. It'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 daggum game. I don't want to hear one word about it. It's 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've got a committed group of people, staff, players, everybody. 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. I appreciate that little nugget.
The last seven national champs, we beat this season. So absolutely we expected it. 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. They'll be back. They'll probably be right back next year. Nick is going to buy my dinner this year, though. I guarantee you, they'll be right back next year. Hopefully we'll have a chance to have a rubber match. I'd love 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. 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?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I appreciate that. He's been incredibly gracious to me. He was that way last year. I mean, it was crazy. I kept trying to find him. We finally got each other. He was great.
I mean, what are you going to say? His team played their hearts out. 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. I said, Rocky. The 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.
That's kind of how it was. 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, they 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. We weren't leaving here without that trophy. We got it done, but he was very gracious.
Q. Dabo, can you take us through the last five minutes as you're watching it on the sidelines, what's going through your mind, especially the last scoring drive.
COACH SWINNEY: I'm just trying to help them have the right play called, manage the game, manage the clock, squeeze as much time as we could. Then we got in field goal range.
But we were playing to win. We were putting it in No. 4's hands. We would have kicked the field goal if we had to right there on that last play, if we just had a couple seconds. We would have kicked it and gone to overtime. We were playing to win. Making sure we had the right call.
Man, the staff did a great job. Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott, they just did a phenomenal job. It's amazing how really we all work together. But those two guys did a great job.
The last call, you know, 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. Renfrow popped loose, D-Dub delivered the ball. It was an unbelievable moment.
I wasn't sure if it was over. I saw one second. Again, literally, yesterday we ended our walk-through practice yesterday, we practiced right across the street, right next to the stadium at the Buc's practice facility. We always finish with our victory formation.
I said, Tomorrow night in that stadium, this is how we're going to end the game.
I didn't think we were going to get a chance to do that when we surprised on side and got it. So then they tell us that we got to take a knee. But it was just meant to be, it really was.
What a way to win a national championship, to be able to go out on the field with one second and take a knee. To see this guy get one more snap, just special.
Q. Dabo, had a chance to speak with your mother before the game. She was very confident that her son could get it done. Saw her after the game, probably about 30 minutes after the game. She was still crying, tears of joy. Who is happier, your mom or you?
COACH SWINNEY: Oh, man, everybody's happy. Everybody's happy.
My mom is a special lady. She's 70-ish. I'm just so happy and thankful that she got this moment. Even though my dad's not with us right now, I know he's here. 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. Our fan base deserved it. I'm happy for our board, President Clements, Dan Radakovich. 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, trusted me with that, then handed the baton to Dan Radakovich. Dan has been just amazing to work with. He helped us kind of take it to the next level. I'm so thankful for that.
Then my wife, Kathleen. 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. We've been married 23 years. She was a part of me and encouraged me to believe in myself to walk on at Alabama. 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.
I'm not here without her. She's just been a rock for me. I am 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. He's been keeping the touch chart for me on the sideline his whole life. This was his last game as a Clemson Tiger fan. He's actually going to come play for us next year. Going to be a slot. Hopefully help out old Renfrow right here.
Then Drew, my middle son, he's a junior. He's kept the first, second, third down run-pass chart for me.
Then my man Clay, who was born in Clemson, for those three boys to have the opportunity to share a moment like this, I just can't describe that, I really can't. I cannot describe it.
I wish Coach Stallings had been here. I know he's watching. I talked to him yesterday. Oh, man, I can't wait to talk to Coach Stallings. His grandson is on the team. Kevin Turner's son is on the team. So many Alabama, Clemson connections, guys I won the national championship with. To do it again, I didn't know if it would ever happen. Been working since 1993 to get back. We got it done, so it's just special.
Wish I could hug Coach Stallings, too, because I wouldn't be here without him. Can't wait to talk to him.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you so much. We'll let you head back.
We'll now take questions for the players.
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 ever happening when you were a senior?
HUNTER RENFROW: Never in a million years. It's been such a journey for me. It's almost like I got knocked out in the third quarter and this is all a dream.
I think my faith in God really got me through, just passing up the money to go to App State, coming and playing for a guy like Coach Swinney, and a quarterback like Deshaun, it's pretty special.
Q. Deshaun, a few weeks ago Coach Swinney mentioned you and a few other guys on the offensive side of the ball were not coming back. 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, you know, it was a tough decision. Clemson is a special place. I've enjoyed every single moment since I came in in January of 2014. You know, the three years kind of flew by.
I think it's my time to go. Just kind of end it with a bang. I felt like Coach Swinney knew my time was up.
Like I said, I've enjoyed the three years. I just wanted to sign my name and end it with an exclamation point. I think I did that.
Moments like this I'll never forget. Clemson, it was the best three years of my life. Created 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. It's just been special.
Q. Deshaun, you said after the Heisman that you wanted to win the trophy that no one voted on. What went through your mind especially at the end, the last drive? How much of it was in your mind that you could win that one?
DESHAUN WATSON: I knew it. We work on two-minute drill almost every day in practice whenever we have time. But flashback from last year when they scored, then we scored, we were down five, but we ran out of time.
I just smiled right when they scored. I seen the two minutes and one second on the clock. I just smiled. I told my guys, Let's be legendary, let's go be great. They left too much time on the clock. Last year they ran out of time, but this year they gave us a little bit too much.
I knew my guys was going to make plays. I knew my offensive line was going to give me time. Just thankful for the people I have around me, just believing in me. Get them the ball, those guys making big-time plays. We just drove down. I knew on that last play, something we always work on Renfrow was going to find his way into the end zone. That's what he did. We pulled it out.
Q. Take us through the last play when you realized there was very little margin for error. What did you see in the last play when 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 I knew we were inside the five. I knew they were going to play straight coverage zero man. I know we make the block, get the little block, Renfrow, like I said, was going to get in the end zone. I kind of smiled. I knew before we snapped the ball it was going to be a touchdown. All I had to do was just get the ball to him.
Just slowed down the moment. Everyone made their blocks, did their part. I did my part. We pulled it out.
Q. A lot has been made about how tight-knit the community is at Clemson, how you have a feel-good college football program. What separates your program and makes it unique maybe from other schools?
DESHAUN WATSON: It just starts with the man that was jut sitting here, Coach Swinney. It's all about joy. It's not all about football. It's about being the best man you can be, the best student you can be. I feel like football comes last.
I think if you be a great citizen, a great student, 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 and playing games. He cares about the heart. It just starts from there, the culture. It kind of spreads throughout the program.
Clemson is just a special place. That's one of the reasons why I picked to go there. 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 just feel the vibe. People are happy, students are happy. Everyone just respect one another. 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 he's said that before. I think that's why he's so special, that's why he's the greatest coach in college football.
Q. Deshaun, can you talk about how fate sort of brought you to Clemson. I think you say last week at some point you wanted to go to Florida originally. Why did you make the decision to come to Clemson?
DESHAUN WATSON: Yeah, growing up, Florida was my dream school. Huge Urban Meyer fan, like I said before. I loved Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, those guys. I just wanted to go there.
I found Christ when I was in ninth grade. I just started praying on my decision. My mom got sick. She was praying about it. She knew everything was going to take care of itself. She just wanted me to go play football and keep praying, make sure I made the right decision.
I just felt like that day I committed to Clemson, God was talking to me. I just felt like the time was perfect. That's what I wanted to do.
I stuck through it. It was the best decision of my life. I just thank God that He was a part of it, gave me the opportunity.
Q. Deshaun, when you were describing a little bit ago when 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? Are you thinking, I'm about to throw a pass to win a national championship?
DESHAUN WATSON: Just kind of throw a touchdown.
Like I said before, I just quiet everything. I couldn't hear the crowd. I was just in my zone. I just felt just at peace. Just kind of went through there. Once I threw the touchdown, kind of ran off. At that moment, honestly it's like a blur. The only thing I remember is Renfrow going to the sideline. I'm just sitting there, and the guys just coming over there. That's all I really remember. It just happened so fast. It was just incredible.
Q. Can you talk a little about the trust that Hunter has built up in you. He wasn't a scholarship athlete when he first came here. 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, just went to work. He started off on scout team as a freshman because he was a walk-on. All the guys on defense are saying, Hey, Hunter is going to be special. Whatever he's doing today, that's the level he was doing it on scout team. All the defensive guys were mad, pissed off. One day Swinney went over and watched him. Hey, let's move him over here. We kind of needed a guy to be a spark to this offense. He plugged in, and the sky's been the limit for him.
He just always go to work, never complains, never draw attention to him. He always try to find a way to do his job and play his role, help the team win. Regardless if he scores a touchdown, catches balls, he knows what the defense is doing. He studies film all the time.
If I see something, 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. He's just special, brings us joy, makes everyone 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? Was there some point before that? They said in the locker room you played every snap, had to get some fluids. What did it take for you to get through to the end of this one?
HUNTER RENFROW: I feel like definitely nationally last year I kind of got some recognition in the Alabama game. But it really started at two points over the last two years. It's crazy to think about a year and a half ago I was a walk-on still. Nobody really knew about me.
But like Deshaun said earlier, it all started in practice. I went against, two years ago, Mackensie Alexander, Stephone Anthony. We were the number one defense in the nation. That's one thing I carried over, if I can get open against those guys, the guys we have now in practice, I can get open against anyone.
Then last year, the Notre Dame game, such a big game in the rain, in a hurricane. I made a catch on the sideline. I felt like I kind of belonged.
I played every snap except one. When they punted it down on the one 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, I couldn't let these seniors go down like we did last year. Just love them and appreciative for the opportunity.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports