By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
HOUSTON — In addition to winning his first college football national championship, coach Dabo Swinney of Clemson picked up another honor this week by becoming the first back-to-back winner of the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award presented by the American Heart Association.
Swinney is also just the second two-time winner, joining Chris Petersen of Washington, who won in 2006 and 2009 while at Boise State.
“Fresh off a national championship win against Alabama and to be chosen and honored this way again is just something I never ever would have dreamed of ever,” Swinney said Wednesday night.
The Bryant Award is college football’s only top-coach honor determined after all the bowl games have been played. It is named for the man who retired with the most wins in college football history; Bryant died following a massive heart attack in 1983, and the award was established in his honor. It’s been given annually since 1986.
The backbone of Bryant’s coaching legacy came from his tenure at Alabama. Swinney grew up in Pelham, Alabama, as a huge fan of Bryant and the Crimson Tide. He joined the team as a walk-on receiver and was part of their 1992 national championship team. He also got his start in coaching at Alabama, working there from 1993-2000, when he went to Clemson as a receivers coach. He’s been the head coach since taking over on an interim basis in 2008.
“We should all be measured by how we give, not what we take,” Swinney said. “It was an honor to be here for an award that is named for Coach Bryant – he was a true giver. We’re here because of others. To be great at anything you have to surround yourself with winners. I’m so fortunate because of the good people, young men, great coaches and my wife who surround me.”
Swinney’s championship happened to come at the expense of his alma mater. Clemson beat Alabama 35-31 on Monday night thanks to a touchdown with 1 second left. The year before, Clemson lost to Alabama in another tight, exciting national championship game.
By winning an Associated Press national championship as a player and a coach, Swinney joined Bud Wilkinson as the only people to pull off such a feat. Wilkinson won as a player at Minnesota and coach at Oklahoma.
Swinney’s selection as the Bryant Award winner came at a ceremony sponsored by Marathon Oil Corporation. Over its history, the event has raised more than $7 million to fund AHA research, advocacy and educational programs across the country.
Highlights from the event will be aired in an upcoming special on Fox Sports Southwest. The event also included the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Barry Alvarez, who led Wisconsin to three Rose Bowls over 16 seasons before becoming the school’s athletic director.
Previous winners of the Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award include Mack Brown, Jimmy Johnson, R.C. Slocum, LaVell Edwards and Hayden Fry.
“To be able to add my name to that list, I’m very humbled,” Alvarez said.