Behind The ScenesESPN The Magazine

The Mag’s McGee, an S.C. native, traces Clemson’s football reemergence under Swinney

Ryan McGee (L) interviewed Dabo Swinney during this July 2015 ESPN telecast and later profiled the Clemson football coach for ESPN The Magazine.
Ryan McGee (L) interviewed Dabo Swinney during a July 2015 ESPNU telecast and later profiled the Clemson football coach for ESPN The Magazine.
QB DeShaun Watson shares the cover of ESPN The Magazine with the Clemson Tigers mascot. (Dylan Coulter/ESPN The Magazine)
Tigers QB DeShaun Watson shares the cover of ESPN The Magazine with the Clemson mascot.
(Dylan Coulter/ESPN The Magazine)

Having once lived in a small town in South Carolina, ESPN The Magazine senior writer Ryan McGee already had a connection to Clemson before tackling his recent story on the rise of the school’s football program under coach Dabo Swinney.

His profile of Swinney is one of the features showcased in the Championship Drive Issue previewing the College Football Playoff Semifinals on New Year’s Eve, available on newsstands.

McGee gives Front Row some insight on growing up in Tigers country, profiling Swinney as well as the “time machine moments” he shares with ESPN Radio Marty & McGee partner and bureau reporter Marty Smith.

On the Clemson he knew growing up in South Carolina:
I graduated high school in Travelers Rest, S.C., in the late 1980s when Clemson was Clemson: It was 10 wins a year and they were playing in giant bowl games and they won a National Championship, and they won an ACC Championship it seemed like every year. Everybody got a little comfortable and you kind of start resting on what you’ve done in the past. There were bumper stickers everywhere with “1981 National Champions” and all of a sudden one day you wake up and all those bumper stickers are faded – the font looks old – and you don’t realize Clemson hadn’t won a conference championship in like 20 years. Until Dabo took over.

On Dabo’s success at Clemson:
Dabo, on paper, shouldn’t have been the head coach at a program that big. But he convinced the AD to take a chance on him, and he convinced his recruits to take a chance on him, and he’s convinced the donors who, quite frankly, hadn’t ponied up to Clemson in a long time to take a chance. He’s a sales guy. [EDITOR’S NOTE: McGee discusses Swinney’s rise and more in this video.]

Marty & McGee returns Jan. 9

Marty & McGee returns to ESPN Radio on Saturday, Jan. 9, 3-5 p.m. ET, live from the site of the College Football Playoff Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz.

On podcast partner Marty Smith:
Marty and I – he’s one of my best friends in the world. Obviously, we have the radio show together and we’ve been to so many race tracks together for almost a decade and a half now [McGee and Smith have covered NASCAR for ESPN]. We joke all the time about getting in a time machine and going back to our little 12-year-old selves and going “Man, you ain’t going to believe that you’re going to be on the sidelines of the ACC championship” or – in Marty’s case – riding to work with [Alabama coach] Nick Saban or eating breakfast with [LSU coach] Les Miles or me getting to hold [former USC coach] Steve Spurrier’s Heisman in my hands. We call them “time machine moments.”

Hannah Storm interviews Dabo Swinney for 'Face To Face'
Here are a few behind-the-scenes moments with Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney and Hannah Storm from her "Face to Face" interview with the coach. (Hannah Storm/ESPN)
A few behind-the-scenes moments with Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney and Hannah Storm from her “Face to Face” interview with the coach. (Hannah Storm/ESPN)

ESPN’s Hannah Storm recently interviewed Dabo Swinney for another of her recurring SportsCenter “Face to Face” features which debuted this past weekend. Swinney talks about the intensity he brings to coaching Clemson football, his challenging childhood and even grabs a slice of New York pizza with Storm.
Editor’s Note: If the video below does not play on your device, click here.


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