Swinney to speak at Macon Touchdown Club jamboree

sports@macon.comFebruary 24, 2014 


Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney throws an orange to fans amid the celebration following a 40-35 win against Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.


The late Erk Russell was not only an outstanding football coach but also a gifted after-dinner speaker who was about as entertaining as they come.

Russell, who led Georgia’s “Junkyard Dog Defense” for 17 seasons under Vince Dooley before restarting the football program at Georgia Southern, where he won three national championships at the FCS level, came up with some classics on the banquet circuit.

Two anecdotes come to mind about Clemson. His first was that Clemson was originally Clem University and that the S-O-N was added to represent shivalry, onor and noledge. And his directions to get to Clemson were simple -- go north on I-85 until you smell it and take a left and go until you step in it.

Despite Russell’s jabs at Clemson, the Tigers have had a long and storied football history. Interestingly, much of their success has come when an Alabama graduate was the Tigers’ head coach, and that has been the case for 52 of the past 73 seasons. The Bama connection started when Frank Howard became head coach in 1940. The former Crimson Tide letterman coached the Tigers for 30 seasons and is the program’s all-time winningest coach with 165 victories to his credit.

When he retired, he was followed by another Alabama man, Hootie Ingram, who spent three seasons with the Tigers from 1970 through the 1972 season. Ingram, who introduced the Tiger Paw logo at Clemson, later served as the athletics director at Florida State.

Charlie Pell, who played for Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama in the early 1960s, served as Clemson’s head coach for the 1977 and 1978 seasons and left to take the head job at Florida prior to the Tigers’ bowl game with Ohio State, leaving the door open for another Bryant disciple, Danny Ford, who took over and remained through the 1989 season. Ford’s first game, that Gator Bowl, is remembered as Woody Hayes’ swan song at Ohio State. That is the contest when Hayes punched and choked Charlie Bauman on an out-of-bounds play, which led to Hayes’ firing. Ford led the Tigers to their only national championship in 1981,

There was an Alabama coaching void at Clemson from 1990 until midway through the 2008 season when Tommy Bowden resigned and was replaced by assistant Dabo Swinney, who maintains the job today. Swinney was a walk-on wide receiver for the Crimson Tide who earned a scholarship after his first season and was a member of Alabama’s 1992 national championship team.

Swinney, whose real name is Christopher Michael, got the nickname Dabo as a tot from his parents because his 18-month-old brother couldn’t enunciate “that boy” when referring to him.

Swinney has compiled an overall record of 51-23 during his head coaching career, including three consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins. He has guided the Tigers to two BCS bowl games in the past three seasons, including this year’s Orange Bowl that saw his Clemson team defeat Ohio State.

Macon Touchdown Club members get a chance to hear Swinney up close and personal during their annual jamboree meeting, which is set for Monday night at the Methodist Home, starting 6 p.m. In addition to the featured address by Swinney, the Club will honor local and state high school football players, including the Elmo A. Richardson State High School Player of the Year Award, which will go to Norcross linebacker Lorenzo Carter. The five-star rated defensive standout has signed a scholarship to play at Georgia beginning in the fall.

Non-members of the club who want to attend Monday’s night’s jamboree can make reservations by calling club president Russell Deese at 550-0524 or executive director King Kemper at 957-1920. Admission to the jamboree is $30.

Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Email him at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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