HOUSTON — Being born and raised in Pelham, Alabama, young Dabo Swinney watched "The 'Bear' Bryant Show" every Sunday morning and hoped to one day play for him and the Crimson Tide.
Swinney eventually walked on at Alabama as a wide receiver, but years after Bryant was gone. Now, though, the Clemson coach will forever be linked with his hero.
Swinney won the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year award on Wednesday night, announced by the American Heart Association.
"Just amazing, it really is. This is really not anything I ever dreamed of, to be honest with you, this is kind of beyond that," Swinney said.
"It's just a blessing and I'm very humbled by it. To have my name associated with anything Coach Bryant is surreal to me. Wish my dad could be here with me to celebrate it, but I know he's looking down and smiling ear-to-ear."
Clemson was undefeated until losing to Alabama 45-40 on Monday night in the national championship game. The Tigers finished 14-1.
Swinney is 75-27 in seven seasons at Clemson.
Swinney earned his seventh coach of the year award this season.
"It's really been an unbelievable year," he said. "I'm very thankful for our team for buying in and just the heart they displayed all year long. Obviously we came up a little short in the last game. But 14-1, second in the country, a lot to be celebrated from a very young team."
"We'll reload and see if we can continue to grow our program from it," he said.
Also, former Texas coach Mack Brown was honored with the Paul "Bear" Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award.
Brown, who was the 2005 Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award recipient, spent 16 seasons with the Longhorns and led them to a national championship.
"Anytime your name can be associated with some of the best coaches ever that you have great respect for, it's fun and very flattering," Brown said prior to the evening.