Just outside the Clemson indoor practice facility, Dabo Swinney rattled off the numbers like he was in the living room of a prize target on the recruiting trail.
Instead, Swinney held court with college and NFL media this past week for Clemson pro day, where 18 former Tigers showcased their skills before 95 personnel from every team in the NFL.
No draft-eligible Tiger played a season without double-digit wins, coming off the second-highest finish in school history (2). Swinney sees that track record as an extra draw for the pros.
“They played well. This is a game of performance – not potential,” Swinney said. “I say that all the time. There’s a lot of good tape. They consistently played well. This is the winningest senior class in school history. These guys that are coming out have been incredibly successful: three out of four years finishing in the top-10. That certainly helps – there’s no question. That’s why all these guys are here.
“You don’t beat the type of people we’ve beaten without good players.”
The Clemson coach’s go-to stat in this area is 75 percent of his NFL prospects making a roster – a rather stunning figure with such a low rate overall for college athletes (1.6 percent as of 2013, which Swinney also cited).
And it’s not just the 5-star prospects either, as more under-the-radar athletes such as former 2-star Adam Humphries, who earned his roster spot with a tryout and caught a pass in 10 games last season for Tampa Bay.
“Absolutely it’s important to these guys to have opportunities to play at the next level,” said Swinney. “We keep up with that. Our guys are graduating and I think they’re sticking because of the culture they’re coming from. Everybody knows Sammy Watkins is gonna go and Vic (Beasley). And Adam Humphries goes and is a free agent catching 35 or 40 balls as a rookie for the Bucs. Starts his first-ever NFL game.
“That’s what people don’t see. (Daniel DL product) DeShawn Williams making it (with Cincinnati). (DE prospect) Tavaris Barnes (at New Orleans). I think they’re sticking, again, because of how we handle our business here and the overall development of them outside of the football field.”
A packed house is a new normal for Clemson pro day going forward, especially coming off back-to-back top-5-rated recruiting classes.
“If you’re going to have a consistent program, you got to evaluate and recruit at a high-level and develop your guys,” Swinney said. “And you have to have a great coaching staff. We’ve done a good job in all those areas. Just like this year, we’re going to be really good on defense this year. Nobody knows who (Clemson sophomore DE) Austin Bryant is and (redshirt freshman DE) Clelin Ferrell, but they will. And they will all be back here to see them in a couple years.
“There’s no secret. The lifeline of any college program is recruiting.”