Really, a team coached by Dabo Swinney couldn’t have won a national championship any other way.
The Clemson coach’s life story could have been written by Horatio Alger, the guy who invented the classic American success story, if Alger had a drawl and ever said, “Bring your own guts.”
Swinney, the former walk-on wide receiver, won his first national championship against his alma mater — the team that denied him a year ago, the monolithic defending national champion Alabama — with 1 second to play, on a throw to a former walk-on wide receiver.
Hunter Renfrow, a sophomore who turned down a scholarship offer from FCS Appalachian State to pay for the chance to play for Swinney, caught the winning 2-yard touchdown pass from the greatest player ever to wear a Clemson uniform.
His name is Deshaun Watson, and the combination of his will and his right arm drove the Tigers to overcome two deficits in the final five minutes for a 35-31 victory on Monday night with a second to spare.
A year ago, Clemson lost the playoff final to Alabama, 45-40, despite Watson throwing for four touchdowns and gaining 478 yards of total offense. This time, the Tide throttled Watson for most of the first half. Yet he came out of halftime a different guy, and he finished with four touchdowns (one rushing, three passing) and 463 yards of total offense. So the Tide’s defense is making progress.