CLEMSON – Rarely is a person so quickly asked to practice what they preach as Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney was Tuesday.
A mere hours after speaking to the media at length about building "his guys" into good people with so much turmoil in the world, members of the Tigers' staff saved a student from a potentially life-threatening situation.
As Swinney and the team wrapped up practice at around 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, they heard a loud collision on Perimeter Road just east of the Tigers' practice facility. Shortly after the noise, a car emerged from the trees guarding the facility from the road, and slid down the hill toward the Seneca River at the bottom.
That's when the Tigers jumped into action.
According to a press release from Clemson University, all players, coaches and personnel "rushed" to the end of the river, where Sports Medicine Assistant Scott Crowthers, student athletic trainer Bailey Black, student managers Jack Wardlaw and Jack Sari, student coach Daniel Boyd and student videographer Eric Suttles each leapt into the water and swam toward the car, which had come to a rest roughly 20 feet from the river bank.
Both Boyd and Suttles are military veterans.
Graduate assistant athletic trainer Rachel Alterio and student athletic trainer Ana Wright also hurried to the scene, where they assisted in removing Clemson freshman Clary Miles from his vehicle. The students stayed with their classmate until EMS personnel arrived, and Swinney and the team prayed and stayed with Miles until he was taken to the hospital via ambulance.
“When we got to the edge of the water I think our entire team was ready to jump in and help, but I held them off (blew his whistle) to let those who were experienced in this area go across,” said Swinney, who visited Miles in the hospital Tuesday evening.
In a small community like Clemson, folks tend to know and care for one another; yet, this accident hit a little closer to home when Swinney found out who was in the car.
"My son, Will, came over to me and had a big tear in his eye and said, ‘Dad, I think that’s Clary.’ And that just took my breath away," Dabo said. "Clary Miles is a kid I’ve known my whole life and he’s been on my team. Y’all know I coach baseball. I’ve coached him since he was eight years old. He was my center fielder. Just an unbelievable young man ... It’s like my own sons, I can just picture the situation."
Dabo said Miles, who works in the school's football office and does "odd jobs" around the facility, was able to recognize him when he was pulled out of the car.
Miles' mother Paula released a statement expressing gratitude for her son's safety and thanking "trainers and managers and others who swam to help Clary and get him out of the car." She also personally thanked graduate assistant coach Thomas Austin, who rode with her son in the ambulance.
The act was immediate proof of the level of character Swinney insists on instilling throughout the program. During his weekly press conference, he said incidents like the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas on Monday are "life-teaching moments," and an accident like the one Tuesday likely falls into that category.
"There’s a lot going on in this world. Every day for us is a life-teaching moment. Every. Single. Day," he said Tuesday morning. 'And the one thing I tell our guys, in my opinion, what the country wants, what a lot of people want in their life, we have right here. I see it every day. I see it every day. I see people that love each other, I see people that sometimes don’t get along but then they put their arms around each other and they may disagree but they’re not disagreeable. I see people who serve others.
"Every single day we get a chance to teach and communicate. These are young people. Try to help them think the right way. Try to help them process things because at the end of the day, and I think Gandhi’s the one who said it, your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values and your values become your destiny. So your destiny is really based on what you believe and what your thoughts are. How you process things, how you respond to things."
Still, an accident like this put life in perspective for the father of three.
"Just a miracle and again, that we were here. Who knows how long it would have taken for somebody to find him?" he said. "Just a real surreal moment for all of us and the team and just perspective how quick, just like that, things can happen. Especially as a father, I’ve got two sons that drive and another one on the way, it’s just so quick how things can happen. "
Marcel Louis-Jacques, Orange and White