Whether on the football field or in a classroom, Will Swinney is a grinder.
He plays as hard to win on Saturdays as he does to succeed Monday through Friday as a student in the College of Business.
Son of renowned Clemson University head coach Dabo Swinney, the 21-year-old junior marketing major appears to have a good handle on balancing the rigors of big-time college football with excellence in the classroom.
“My nature is to work hard and be the best I can be in any life pursuit, be it academics, sports, or anything else,” said Will, the Tigers’ holder for extra points and field goals, wide receiver and punt returner. “My two brothers (Drew and Clay) and I grew up in a very competitive household. Our parents taught us that we don’t have to be the best, but we should do our best.”
The game plan Dabo and Kathleen Swinney have dialed up for their three sons has resonated with Will, a 3.87 GPA student and two-time Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) honor roll selection. Whether in a business class or a wide-receiver set, Will is determined to give his all.
Just ask teammate and classmate Matt Bockhorst, a sophomore finance major and offensive lineman for the Tigers.
“Will epitomizes what coach wants players in this program to be – an extremely hard worker in football and academics, and a determined competitor,” said Matt, himself a two-time ACC honor roll selection. “Will has the kind of drive and attitude that can’t be denied. Everything I’ve witnessed of Will in the classroom is a mirror of his work ethic on the field.”
Making the grade on the field and in the classroom doesn’t come easy to Will. Classes, studies, team practices, individual conditioning, game planning, and extra time after practice running pass routes exact a toll on mind and body.
“My day is crammed with school and football. It can be tough. Early mornings might start with a workout at six, then it’s on to classes and studying, for both coursework and football. There’s mental preparation for games that also requires time,” Will said. “With practice and dinner, we sometimes don’t get out of the facility until 9:30 at night. Managing time is a must for student athletes, and it’s something I take great pride in.”
A scheduling regimen, and some workarounds, are necessary for Will to meet his academic demands, both inside and outside the classrooms.
“Every day, I create a homework list and check off completed projects, so nothing slips through the cracks, especially assignments. A class may be hard, but I believe assignments should be turned in on time,” he added. “One thing that’s difficult with my schedule is student group projects. I can’t do afternoons, so I have to get creative in making those collaborative meetings work.”
Will admits a certain amount of pressure comes with being the coach’s son, but it’s something he’s learned to accept.
“Everything I do is magnified – good and bad. It’s something I’ve gotten a lot better at handling. But I don’t think of my dad being my coach, and don’t believe my teammates view me that way because of the way I’ve handled myself. My focus is giving it all I have for my team and doing the best I can for them.”
Given his plate is full at the present, Will hasn’t settled on a career choice for life after football, but he does believe grades will play a role in where life takes him.
“Players at Clemson are taught that football won’t last forever, and we are well-schooled on making sure a plan exists for when that day comes,” he said. “I like interacting with people, so I could see myself in sales, and I wouldn’t rule out coaching.
“Grades are something I’m really focused on right now. I truly believe classroom achievement shows an employer you’re capable of learning, so it’s a good way for them to judge your potential. That’s why I think it’s important for me to focus on excelling in the classroom. If I get that right, things should fall into place.”
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