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In the world of sports, certain names are immediately identifiable. As soon as you hear “Dabo,” you know we’re talking about Dabo Swinney, one of the top minds in college football. But have you ever wondered how the Clemson Tigers head coach got his unique moniker?

While Dabo might be instantly recognizable, Swinney didn’t select it in the hopes of building a brand. Instead, it stems from the sweetest family story.

Dabo Swinney’s road to coaching the Clemson Tigers

These days, Dabo Swinney has made a name for himself as the head coach of the Clemson Tigers. Before he ever set foot on the sidelines, though, he hit the gridiron as a player.

Swinney went to college at the University of Alabama, where he walked onto the football team as a wide receiver. While he eventually earned a scholarship and was a member of the 1992 national championship squad, the future head coach didn’t make much of an impact; during his Crimson Tide career, he pulled in seven total catches for a grand total of 81 yards.

After graduation, Swinney stayed in Tuscaloosa and spent two seasons as a graduate assistant; he then became a full-fledged assistant coach, working with the team’s wide receivers and tight ends. In 2001, however, Dabo and the rest of the Alabama coaching staff collectively got the ax.

Rather than finding a new coaching job, however, Swinney got a job with AIG Baker and started leasing commercial real estate; according to a Washington Post story, he even stopped telling people he was a football coach.

In 2002, though, everything changed. Tommy Bowden, who knew Dabo from Alabama, offered Swinney an assistant coaching job at Clemson. He accepted the position in 2003, became the interim head coach in 2008, and took over the team full-time in 2009.

The sweet story behind a unique name

Football fans across the south know Clemson’s football coach as Dabo Swinney. His given name, however, is William Christopher, even if no one calls him that.

So what prompted the change? You can thank Swinney’s older brother, Tripp, for that. “The first name of the couple’s third child was in honor of [Swinney’s] grandfather, the middle name because Mom and Dad wanted to call their youngest son ‘Chris,” Ron Moris explained for The State in 2009. “The name stuck until young Tripp kept referring to his brother as ‘that boy,’ which came out sounding like ‘Dabo.”

While little league announcers and standardized tests may have called him William, the nickname stuck. Whether he was playing for Alabama, working for AIG Baker, or coaching at Clemson, Dabo Swinney was the one reporting for duty.

No matter what you call him, Dabo Swinney is quite the success


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While the Swinney family never imagined having a celebrity son named Dabo, they probably won’t be complaining. Not only has he developed into a quality head coach, but he’s made plenty of money along the way.

As mentioned above, Swinney took over as Clemson’s interim head coach during the 2008 campaign; while handing him the reigns to the program wasn’t the safest decision, he’s paid back the school’s faith in spades. Dabo has since piled up 130 wins, two NCAA championships, six ACC titles, and plenty of individual honors during his time in South Carolina.

That performance has also earned Swinney a nice paycheck. Based on USA Today’s NCAA coaching salary list, he earned $9,315,600 during 2019, not including bonuses. That number makes him the highest-paid coach in the country.

Whether his paychecks say William or Dabo Swinney, that’s still quite the deal.

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference