Former Warren County Pioneer head football coach Tommy Johnson has ties to another football coach who will attempt to make his mark on the world of college football, Clemson Tiger head football coach William Christopher “Dabo” Swinney.
The Clemson Tigers boast a perfect 14-0 record this season and after a convincing 37-17 win over Oklahoma, earned a place in the national title game. The win advanced the Tigers to a national championship game versus the Alabama Crimson Tide to be played this Monday in Glendale, Ariz.
An Alabama team that both Swinney and Johnson were teammates on in 1992 won the national championship over the University of Miami by a final score of 34-13. Swinney was a senior receiver, while Johnson was a sophomore defensive back for the Tide. Alabama rolled to a perfect 13-0 record in its quest for a national title in 1992.
Johnson said, “It would be great if Alabama wins, but if coach Swinney does win, I would be just as happy. He is a great friend and a great guy. Deep down I want Alabama to win but I want Clemson to play well.”
Johnson and Swinney were teammates at the University of Alabama and Johnson said, “Swinney was a hard worker then and a hard worker now. He went out on the field everyday prepared to work hard and always had a smile on his face.”
The undefeated 14-0 Tiger coach assumed the head coaching job at Clemson midway through the 2008 football season from Tommy Bowden.
Swinney has collected an impressive 75-26 overall record while at Clemson. He has claimed a pair of conference titles with wins at the Music City Bowl in 2009 and the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2012. He took Clemson to two Orange Bowl appearances where he claimed a win over Oklahoma but fell short in 2012 to West Virginia.
Johnson called coach Swinney when got the job at Clemson and he recalled it was like the two had never spent time apart. They spent some time reminiscing about former playing days and what the future holds.
Johnson said, “I am proud of coach Swinney and I have always respected him as a friend and coach. I can’t think of many other people who deserve it.”
In 1995, Swinney got his start after he received his MBA at Alabama and became a full-time assistant coach in charge of wide receivers and tight ends. He was released with all of head coach Mike DuBose’s staff in early 2001.
In 2003, he was offered a position at Clemson from Tommy Bowden as an assistant coach for wide receivers and recruiting coordinator from longtime coordinator Rick Stockstill.
In 2008, Swinney was named interim coach on Oct. 13 after head coach Bowden resigned six games into the season.
Swinney has continued to be a success and a driving force in Tiger football. Johnson could not be happier for his former teammate. Johnson says the key to the game for coach Swinney will be not to turn the ball over and try and keep the Alabama defense on the field and move the chains as much as possible.