NEW ORLEANS – Tony Elliott arrived on Clemson’s campus 18 years ago as a lost soul with no idea what his future might hold.
Things began changing dramatically for him and haven’t stopped since.
“I didn’t know where my life was headed,” Elliott said Friday during media interviews for Monday night’s Sugar Bowl between No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Alabama. “I became a man there, and it’s because of the people that are in that building to this day – coach (Dabo) Swinney, Jeff Davis, and now have an opportunity to be around coach (Woody) McCorvey, Brad Scott – all those guys have helped me become the man I am today.”
Who Tony Elliott is today is Clemson’s third-year co-offensive coordinator, an up-and-coming young coach and recent recipient of the Frank Broyles Award as the national assistant coach of the year in college football.
Since Elliott was named co-offensive coordinator along with Jeff Scott prior to the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl, Clemson has compiled a 41-3 record, won three Atlantic Coast Conference championships and one national title.
Not surprisingly, Elliott’s name has popped up in association with head coaching positions, but the 38-year-old is, at least for the time being, content to continue learning the ropes under Swinney.
“I understand watching Coach Swinney and how he’s built the program, what it takes to be successful as a head coach,” Elliott said. “I think in this profession nowadays a lot of people are chasing fame, notoriety and maybe even a paycheck.
“If I take an opportunity, I want to make sure that I’m prepared. There’s a lot of things that I have to learn as a young coach. I’m still trying to learn how to be a coordinator; this is only three years as a coordinator.”
Also, his ties to Clemson, where he played as a wide receiver from 1999 to 2003, are strong, he reminded Friday, so he's not exactly anxious to uproot his young family.
His wife went to Clemson. Both of his boys were born at Clemson. Swinney was his position coach at Clemson.
“Clemson is home to me,” Elliott said.
Someday, perhaps sooner rather than later, the right offer is going to come along, and Elliott will leave the flock.
But in the meantime, he’s absorbing all the knowledge he can.
“Yeah, we’ve had unbelievable success, but there’s a lot of things I could do better, a lot of things I could learn – situational things that I’ve got to be able to manage better,” Elliott said. “Just watching Coach Swinney and seeing all the things he has to do on a daily basis, there’s so much outside of football that I have to learn, so before I rush into an opportunity and ask 30 to 50 families to put their trust in me, I want to make sure that I’m prepared. When the right door is open, the Lord will lead me in that direction.”
Scott Keepfer, The Greenville News