‘He teaches me how to work and grind’: Will Swinney carves out role for Clemson

Will Swinney knows the scrutiny of playing for his father at a high-profile football program like Clemson.

But the son of Dabo Swinney has made a name for himself on the field with his work ethic and is respected by his teammates. The sophomore walk-on has carved a niche on special teams as the holder to kicker Greg Huegel for field goals and extra points in addition to being a backup receiver on the team.

“I have really enjoyed getting to know him. He is a pretty good football player, too,” Clemson h-back Grant Williams said. “He is a pretty reliable receiver and makes good plays in practice. One day I’m sure he will get his shot to make plays in games, too.”

Said receiver Amari Rodgers: “He is amazing. He is a grinder. He pushes me and teaches me how to work and grind.”

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott backed up Rodgers’ statements earlier this year, and there are some nights he has to pull him and Rodgers off the practice fields so they can get to their study halls.

Swinney’s hard work behind the scenes was rewarded when he caught first college touchdown pass in the 77-16 win over Louisville on Nov. 3.

This season, Swinney has appeared in seven games as a receiver and made seven catches for 30 yards. He had one catch for two yards in last week’s Cotton Bowl win over Notre Dame.

“We don’t have an asterisk next to Will’s name because of what his last name is,” Scott said in November. “He’s respected on our team because of the way that he goes about his business. He takes notes in meetings, and he works for his opportunities that he’s been given.”

“It is fun to be able to cheer for him when he gets out there. He is a close friend that I know he is going to have my back,” receiver Hunter Renfrow said this week of Swinney. “We are together every night. He sees the game a lot like I do. If we do this then this happens, and so on.”

Renfrow and Swinney are roommates and have continued their friendship that began before Swinney arrived on campus.

Renfrow said Swinney has a funny “overall quirkiness” and that side was on display last week during Cotton Bowl media day when he did a good imitation of his father.

Swinney has a competitive streak and Renfrow saw that first-hand this summer when the two along with Dabo Swinney were at a swimming pool. The three were having a contest to see who could hold their breath the longest underwater.

“Will goes first and gets like 35 seconds and I go and get like 45,” Renfrow recalls. “Then coach Swinney goes and makes fun of Will, saying you can do better than that. Coach Swinney goes and gets like two minutes then Will goes and gets to like two and half minutes. Then coach Swinney goes and does like three minutes.

“So just Will’s overall competitiveness and quirkiness stand out. I’m glad to have him as friend and teammate.”