Given that the winner's name each year is associated with one of college football's coaching icons, the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award always feels exceedingly special for the man chosen as the recipient. However, having been born and raised in Pelham, Alabama, and having watched The Bear Bryant Show religiously as a kid, winning the award would carry a little more significance for Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
And that's exactly what happened on Wednesday night here in Houston, the home base for the Bryant Award ceremony. Swinney took home the hardware, beating out five other finalists, including University of Houston head coach Tom Herman.
Swinney, of course, is also an Alabama alum and spoke extensively in his speech Wednesday night about his years in Tuscaloosa as a walk-on wide receiver playing for Gene Stallings, and the impact that merely following Bryant had on him as a kid. After the presentation of the award, Swinney was understandably humbled.
"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," said Swinney.
Clemson finished the season 14-1 and was runner-up to Alabama for the national title, after a 45-40 loss to the Crimson Tide just three nights ago. The Tigers were No. 1 in every College Football Playoff poll throughout the season, and won the ACC Title. All of this happened even though Swinney and his staff had to replace most of the offensive and defensive lines. Swinney's record at Clemson in seven seasons is 75-27.
"It's really been an unbelievable year," Swinney 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."
The other finalists for the award included Herman, Stanford's David Shaw, North Carolina's Larry Fedora, Navy's Ken Niumatalolo, and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. Former Texas head coach Mack Brown took home the Lifetime Achievement Award. Brown was a Bryant Award winner following UT's last national championship season in 2005.
The Bryant Award benefits the American Heart Association and is the only college coaching award voted on after the bowl season has ended.
Herman Hires Former Texan and Rice Owl TE Casey
Early Wednesday morning, former Houston Texan and Rice Owl tight end James Casey sort of quasi-announced his retirement on Twitter....
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By Wednesday night, Casey had a new job, having been hired by Herman to be part of the coaching staff at the University of Houston. Casey announced the hiring on Twitter Thursday morning...
It has not been made public yet what exactly Casey's role on the staff will be. Casey spent seven seasons in the NFL after being drafted by the Texans out of Rice in 2009. He last played for the Broncos this past season before being released during the season.
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