DABO: Man, just an amazing night. I'm just so thankful to have an opportunity to be a part of it. As I said out there, it's just the grace of God to have the opportunity to experience something like this once in a lifetime, and to have a chance now to do it two times in the past three years is just amazing. Just amazing. I'm so proud of our team. This team was special from day one. Our leadership, our focus, our commitment, but I'm so happy for all these guys, our staff, our fans, our administration, our former players. Congratulations to Alabama, unbelievable season and champion that they've been.
But our guys, they had a clear vision of the way we wanted this to go tonight. I think we were able to achieve that. We took care of the ball. We attacked, made big plays. Defensively we bent a little bit but we didn't break, had some critical stops, made some plays on special teams, and it was just a complete performance all the way through.
I mean, our guys had the eye of the tiger, but I'm so proud, and then for our seniors to be able to go out 15-0 and truly be the best ever – there was a lot of talk about best ever all year long. We were never in that conversation. But tonight, there's no doubt. First 15-0 team, to beat Notre Dame and to beat Alabama to do it, this team won 13 games by 20 points or more and led by an unbelievable group of seniors, amazing group. I'm just thankful to be a part of it.
It's just an amazing moment. Having done this before, as I just told these guys, you enjoy this moment, and we're certainly going to enjoy it, but at the end of the day, it's more an appreciation for the journey we went through to get here, the grind, the struggles, and then what you remember most and appreciate most is the relationships that you have in place.
An amazing moment. So thankful, and can't wait to get back started Friday and see if we can find a way to go do it again.
Trevor, early on in the game, it looked like you were a little up and down, and I'm wondering were there any nerves? Did you figure some things out on the defense? What allowed you to settle into more of a rhythm as the game went on?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: It might have looked that way, but I didn't really feel up and down. I feel like we had a good plan and we knew what we were doing, and obviously every game there's some adjustments, especially they come out doing some stuff a little different than you might think they will, and they have great coaches, too, and they prepped for us, and they did a great job. But yeah, we had to make some adjustments, but really just proud of how we handled everything and really thankful for my O-line, no sacks tonight, and they did an unbelievable job.
Trevor, at one point you were 8 for 10 for 240 yards on third down alone. How would you describe how that felt, not only making the reads and the plays that you were making but on the other end seeing some phenomenal catches by your receivers tonight?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, I mean, the games like this you've got to make big plays, and the guys that we have, they definitely did that. You just give them a chance, and they'll come down with it. Like I said about the O-line, same thing about the receivers and running backs and everyone else. Just amazing players and really just so proud of – it took a lot to get here, but really just proud of those guys.
How much can you really enjoy it now, you're the first true freshman to lead your team to a National Championship, offensive player of the game. What does it mean to enjoy it now?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: That doesn't mean as much as being able to be a part of this team. Really it's true, even if we didn't go all this way and win a National Championship, this has been a team that I'll never forget for one, and it's just been amazing, the focus and how driven this team is has been unbelievable. Just these seniors, just taking me in, and they kind of dragged me along until I got my feet under me, and they just – they're awesome people as well as players.
Trevor, this week you said you watched the game last year and you dreamed about playing in it. I just want to know, did it live up to your expectations, or was it even better for you?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, I mean, it was just surreal. So yeah, it was even better. It's always great just to get another game with this group of guys. Like I said, just been an amazing year. But yeah, it was amazing. Obviously our fans were awesome, traveled well. So thank you all for that. And then yeah, just an unbelievable experience.
Trayvon, do you feel like that was the best game that you played, and can you take us through the big interception and return you had and then the sack you had on the corner blitz, it looked like that was pretty well disguised?
TRAYVON MULLEN: I wouldn't say it was the best game I played, but I know I came to play. The whole defense came to play, the whole team, all three phases. Coach V, he's a terrific coach, he puts us in great position. Like Coach Swinney said, we started off a little bit slow, we bent a little bit but never broke. We just kept grinding, and on that play we were three deep call and I opened up and I read through Tua and I seen the ball and I went and grabbed it.
The corner blitz, it was like a cover two call, but the boundary corner, we blitzed on that specific call that Coach told us on the blitz through the B gap. When I seen a receiver motion, I knew it was my shot, and then I just went for it.
Trevor, Coach Swinney said that when he named you the starter, he wasn't thinking about the rest of the season, he was thinking about the Syracuse game, and it happened to be the next game. When Coach named you the starter, did you think it was a chance for one game, or did you see this as I'm taking this the rest of the way?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: I mean, I think some of that stuff came after, you know, but when it happened, I'm just like, okay, I've got to lock in this week, take it one week at a time. We had a conversation, but we knew – the situation was I got the opportunity to start that week, and that was really it. But I feel like just trying to take it one week at a time and really everyone on our team has done that, and that's why we've been so successful this year.
Coach, when did you realize No. 8 would be a difficult match-up for Alabama?
DABO: What did you say again? AJ Terrell?
DABO: Oh, that 8. I mean, the moment we recruited him, we knew he'd be a tough match-up not just for Alabama, for anybody we played. But what a night. I mean, he's just a guy that I thought early in the season – I mean, he was unbelievable in camp and the early part of the season, and then thought he hit a little bit of a wall because it's tough, man, I mean, it's just a different – when you go from being the most dominant guy on the field to now every day at practice is like the Super Bowl because you're going against some elite talent, and then he just kind of got his second wind, and these last five games probably, he has been unbelievable. The catches that you saw him make tonight, those are routine for him. I mean, it's just amazing. I told Trevor, I said, could you quit throwing crappy balls so he don't have to show off like that and make some of those crazy catches? But that's what he can do.
And for this kid from Alabama to have the opportunity to beat Alabama for the National Championship, I mean, listen, I know exactly how he feels for sure, and it was something we talked about in the recruiting process, and he wanted to be a part of this, and he wanted to come play with Trevor. He wanted to be a part of our tradition that we have at the receiver position, and you know, he didn't mind coming in and jumping in line behind T and kind of earning his way. He's a pretty good player as a freshman, and we got Trevor back again and Travis back. Like I said earlier, I can't wait until our team meeting on Friday, and that's going to be our first team meeting for the 2019 team. It's going to be a fun bunch.
Some people say, oh, well, everybody is like, well, you lose you get motivated. I get motivated by winning. I don't have to lose to get motivated. Man, I'm as motivated as I've ever been to get back to work with next year's team and kind of figure it out because it's going to be fun because we've got a lot of unbelievable seniors that are moving on but we've got some dynamic pieces like Justin Ross and that guy right here, that No. 16 coming back that are going to lead the way.
How familiar are you with Clelin's reference on the stage with the coach dancing and things like that, and what do you think he's going to bring to a team at the next level?
DABO: I have no idea what he said on the stage. You'll have to give me some – I have no idea what he said.
It was a Death Row Records reference.
DABO: Oh, okay, I don't know. I mean, if he goes pro, he's going to bring anything and everything. All these seniors, this is an amazing group of people. I told them in the locker room, I can't wait 20 years from now to get together and see what this group of young people do in life. They're going to dominate life. This is an amazing – we had 66 guys make a 3.0 or better. That was a school record, shattered the record.
Everything they've done, they've like gone above and beyond. 55 wins. The record was 50. 56 was our record for 3.0s. We had 66. We had 26 graduates, the most of any bowl team. We won the AFCA academic award, we won the Campbell Trophy, and we won the National Championship on the field. And man, it's just been unbelievable. These are some of the most dynamic young people you're ever going to meet in the word, Clelin, Christian, Austin, Kendall, Mitch, Falci, Adam, Trevion, I mean, it just goes on and on and on, these seniors, and they are going to be amazing people in life. I can't wait to get together 20 years down the road and meet their kids and just hear all the great things that they're going to go on and do in life. And this was a great moment. This was just part of their journey. It's just part of their journey.
But their leadership is what – I told them, you've led us all year, got to lead us tonight. So I'm just super proud of them, and I know they're going to love and enjoy this but go on and do great things.
If someone had told you when you were a walk-on at Alabama that you would go back and beat that team twice for the national title, what would you have thought?
DABO: Why not, you know? Why not? That's what it takes. It takes belief. I think that we put limitations on our own self by how we think. I've always believed that way. Why not?
God is bigger than that stage out there, that's for sure. You know, I know 10 years ago not many people probably saw this coming, but we're here, and we did it. It's amazing. It's a blessing.
As I said, out there on the field, I said it two years ago and I'll say it again: This is really not anything that I've done. It's not anything that our players have done. I mean, it's – I think God has worked through us. Only God can do this. A Hollywood movie Steven Spielberg or whoever one of them producer people are, they couldn't write this script. They couldn't write this script. They really couldn't. Only God can do this. And I give him all the glory because I know where my strength comes from, and I know that it's only by his grace that I've been able to walk this walk, walk this journey. God has opened so many doors for me, closed doors, put people in my path. He's gifted me. Man, I'm just so thankful.
As a young boy growing up in Alabama, I've lived so many of my dreams, and I dreamed big. I mean, what else was I going to do?
If anything, I hope that a moment like this – because I know there's a single mom out there somewhere probably trying to figure out how she's going to make it. I know there's a kid probably like me that's got some bad circumstances and not sure what your future looks like. If anything else, man, that comes from this tonight, I hope that somebody like that can have some encouragement and some hope that, you know what, God has got a plan for me. And he can say, man, if that guy can go do it, you know what, why can't I. But you've got to be willing to put the work in, number one, and then if Clemson can do it, why can't we? We're just little ol' Clemson. We're not supposed to be here. We're not supposed to be the first 15-0 team in history. We're not supposed to be here, but we are. But we are. And beat Notre Dame and Alabama to do it. Only God can do that.
When you got this job on an interim basis and then you got the job permanently, Clemson was from the outside looking in a middle of the pack program, but you guys had a lot of talent on that team, but everybody wanted to say, oh, that's just Clemson Clemsoning. You guys have shed that notion now winning two championships in the last three years. How surreal is it to see your program now, and you're already talking about Friday, looking forward to next season, four days after winning a National Championship. Talk about how it is to have your program talked about with the Bamas, with the Notre Dames, with the Georgias?
DABO: Well, it's what we set out to do. In fact, at my very first board meeting, I've said this many times, I don't know any of these people and they've all got suits on and it was very stuff if I, and I was like, this ain't going to go well. One of the guys said, we just want to be a program like Michigan and Florida and Georgia and a team that's really good academically, and I'm sitting there talking to myself saying, keep your mouth shut, just shut up, get out of here and move on. But Alabama wouldn't allow that, so I kind of cut the guy off, and I just said, you know, I don't mean this disrespectful, but that's not my goal. My vision for Clemson is for all these other schools to want to be like Clemson. I want to build a model program, and I want to do it in a way that loves our players, serves our players, equips our players. I want to have some fun doing it, and if it don't work, hey, I can go do something else.
And that's what we've done, and we've been intentional with that. So 10 years later, our core values are exactly the same as they were back in '09. And it's been – you know, it's been a process of building it, and you're right, we were a definite middle of the pack program. We hadn't won 10 games since '90 or '91 when I got the job. And now eight years in a row. That was something I told the team, why would you have any doubt, like why would you have any doubt. If you just pay attention – I mean, we won our first division in '09. Everything we've done once, we've done again. We won our first division, we've won it seven times. We won our first league championship in '11, we've won it five times. We had our first 10-win season in '11, we've had eight. We had our first top-10 recruiting class, we've had seven of them, but we haven't ever had the top recruiting class. Probably never will. But we've done okay. We got our first BCS bowl, now we've been to several of them. The only thing we hadn't done twice was win it all. I told the team, we're going to do it again, it's just a matter of which team makes the decision, because I think it's a decision. I think it's a decision.
You have to make a decision on what you're going to do with your commitment and so forth. So I'm just thankful that we've been able to do it and we've been able to build a program of consistency. Our goal is not to win a National Championship. People don't believe that. Our goal is to win the closer right there. The National Championship is just a byproduct of that. It's never been my goal. I don't measure teams by that, and I know we've got some rabid people that that drives them crazy, but I measure our team based on did we get better, did we reach our potential. Not every team is good enough to win the National Championship. That's okay. That's okay. What was our commitment? How did we prepare?
So we've built a program of consistency on and off the field. Eight out of my ten years we've been top 10 academically. I've had 208 seniors, 204 graduates, 15 juniors leave early, four of them have already come back to get their degree, and that's really what I want to be measured by. Not National Championships. Hey, that's great, that's all part of it, but how do my three sons turn out in life and how do all of these players that God has gifted me with to be in their lives, how did they turn out in life, what did they do 10 years from now, five years, 15 years, whatever it is. That's really what I'm going to be measured by. If we can win some National Championships along the way, then that's a blessing.
But that's not our goal. That's not our goal. Our goal is to have a program of consistency and a program that graduates its players and to do it in a way that loves them and equips them with the tools that they're going to need to go out and dominate outside the lines, not just inside the lines.