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How the All Blacks inspired Clemson to glory

Newshub logoNewshub 10/01/2019 Newshub reporter
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. © Photo - Reuters; Video - Atlanta Falcons Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.

Motivation and inspiration can sometimes be found in the strangest of places.

For Clemson University Tigers football coach Dabo Swinney, it came to him in the form of a book when he was given a copy of James Kerr's Legacy, a book that chronicles the successes of the All Blacks.

Swinney revealed to 247Sports how reading the book helped him build one of the most successful college football programmes in the US before Clemson's 44-16 win over the University of Alabama in the National Championship final on Tuesday (NZ time).

The 49-year-old wasn't that familiar with rugby when he received the book, but he began reading it, and one name quickly stuck out when he realised, "Holy crap that guy was in my office".

The man was Sir Graham Henry who coached the New Zealand national team between 2004-11. The two coaches had met a few years prior and posed for a picture.

Swinney thought nothing of meeting Henry till reading about his time as All Blacks coach.

Graham Henry in a suit and tie: Sir Graham Henry, left © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited Sir Graham Henry, left

"I felt like an idiot," Swinney told 247Sports. "He was like the Tom Landry [Former Dallas Cowboys NFL coach] of rugby."

Swinney kept reading the book and was intrigued about some of the All Blacks' methods including one called "sweeping the shed" which means no individual is bigger than the team and its history.

"They've always done the little things probably better than everybody, and they've focused on their culture and take a lot of pride in that," Swinney said.

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Swinney has since employed the "sweeping the shed" method and it has led to plenty of success on the field.

Clemson has featured in three of the last four college football National Championship games, winning two of them in 2017 and 2019 - both against Alabama.

Swinney doesn't mention the All Blacks on a daily basis. Instead, he shows a motivational video based on the team every month while the All Blacks' principles are applied every day.

He also makes the book available in his office to anyone on the team who'd like to read it.

a man wearing a hat: Dan Quinn © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited Dan Quinn

Funnily enough, the book is the same one Dan Quinn - coach of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons - spoke about before the 2017 Superbowl against the New England Patriots.

"I've studied rugby from tackling, and it's been a driving influence on our leverage tackling, using our shoulder to tackle, keeping our head out," Quinn said.

"So my interest for rugby was already there, and then when I found out more about their culture, what they stood for, how they had long-term success for years and years.

"Someday, I will make that trip over there to see them compete and play. That's how strongly I felt about just reading about them.

"So, I haven't had any interaction with them up to now, but it was definitely a book that captured me."

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