SAN JOSE, Calif. — When the final seconds ticked off the clock in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship and the Clemson Tigers were crowned the kings of college football for the second time in the last three seasons, there was a realization for Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney that the Tigers have become a legitimate rival to the Alabama Crimson Tide.
“I tell these guys all the time, you've got to be ready, you've got to be ready, and as far as a rival with Alabama … it’s more like maybe brothers, kind of a sibling rivalry, if you will,” Swinney said. “You know, listen, I have so much respect for Alabama. I mean, Alabama is home (for me), it will always be a place that I love, and I've got a lot of family, and I look at it the same at Clemson. It's home, it's family. It's a very healthy rivalry. I think there's a lot of respect.”
That respect comes not only from having faced the Tide as head coach of the Tigers four straight seasons, but also because it is Swinney’s alma mater.
“It's going to take me like two weeks to respond to my text messages because it's like a double-up game for me,” Swinney said. “Usually I always get a lot of well wishes before or after games from all my Clemson family and friends, but then you play Alabama, and it's doubled because I've got Alabama family and friends.”
Tigers declare for NFL Draft
With a national championship win comes the natural progression of underclassmen who will choose to end their college careers early and on top. That progression has begun for the Clemson Tigers, as starting linebacker Tre Lamar declared his intention to enter the 2019 NFL Draft - foregoing his senior season.
In a message posted on social media Wednesday, Lamar stated: “I cannot truly express my thanks and my gratitude for the many blessings I’ve had in my time as a student-athlete at Clemson … After much consideration, I have elected to forgo my senior season and enter the 2019 NFL Draft. I am so thankful for my entire time at Clemson, and though I may wear a new uniform going forward, I will always remain a Clemson Tiger.”
Lamar was a Butkus Award finalist and was chosen second-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association.
Joining Lamar in declaring for the NFL Draft was cornerback Trayvon Mullen.
In a similar fashion, Mullen also took to social media Wednesday to thank Clemson for his opportunities and declare for the NFL Draft, saying: “I want to thank the Clemson family for the experience I’ve gained and the opportunity to play on this team for the past three years. This school and program have helped me become a better person on and off the field.
"It was a tough decision, but I left it in God’s hands. I am ready to move on to the next chapter in life. I have decided to forgo my senior year and declare for the NFL draft.”
Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, who was suspended for the two College Football Playoff wins this postseason after testing positive for a banned substance, also declared for the NFL Draft.
In an emotional social media post late Wednesday, the presumptive NFL first-round selection stated that Clemson has helped him grow, not only as a football player but as a man.
"I don't even know where to begin right now," Lawrence said to start his social media post. "Clemson has been a true blessing for me these past three years. I have accomplished the three things I wanted the most: to grow as a man, to grow spiritually, and to become a better football player. I'm also thankful for all the coaches and support staff, my teammates, my brothers for life, and the friendships and connections that I have made during my time here. I'm thankful for my professors, and I'm thankful for the fans. You are the best fans in the world for the support you have given me and for helping me achieve these goals.
"Thank you for all that you have given me and I ask for your continued prayers and support as I enter the next phase of my life ...Through prayers and conversations with my family, I believe that my next step in life is to forgo my senior season and enter the 2019 NFL Draft.”
The Tigers are still waiting to hear from junior defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell, who is likely to announce his intention to forego his senior year to pursue the NFL.