Note: The following appears in the SC State gameday football program. To purchase a copy of the program while supplies last, send a check for $6 to Clemson Athletic Communications; P.O. Box 31; Clemson, SC 29633 with your return address.
One of head coach Dabo Swinney’s famous mantras is to “bloom where you’re planted.” Director of football strength & conditioning Joey Batson is arguably the best embodiment of this particular saying on Swinney’s staff.
Now in his 20th season as Clemson’s director, Batson has worked under Tommy West, Tommy Bowden and now Swinney. After serving for years as Gary Wade’s top assistant, he assumed the head position in 1997 and continues to have a positive effect on what has grown into one of college football’s top programs.
“I was trained very well when I was a graduate assistant, and I had an opportunity early as the head strength coach,” he said. “When I first got into it, workouts were slow and methodical. Now we train at a much faster pace.”
Every player in Batson’s program runs through a battery of tests and functional assessments, and then begins from the ground up. His vision as director is to build the most explosive, powerful, strongest, fastest and best-conditioned football team in the country, one day at a time.
To do that, he leans on a staff that includes three full-time assistants, Larry Greenlee, Paul Hogan and Adam Smotherman. The football strength training department also has one graduate assistant, Drew McDuffie, as well as five student administrative assistants.
“Larry is in charge of our speed development, and he’s invaluable to me as a friend and administrator. Paul works with offensive linemen and tight ends, and he coordinates our Catapult (player movement) system. Adam works with our defensive linemen and specialists.
“Drew recently received his certification and knows what we want. Then, the administrative assistants are our ‘roadies’ because they are in charge of setup, tearing it down and cleaning. Everyone brings great knowledge, and as a staff, we try to stay out front in our industry.”
Batson has seen two head coaching changes in his 19 years leading Clemson’s efforts in the weight room. When Bowden stepped down and Swinney was named interim head coach in 2008, he said the buy-in process was an easy one.
“I sat beside Dabo in staff meetings for years. One day he’s to my left, and the next he’s at the head of the table. He gave me the opportunity to continue working in our program, and that was an easy decision for me. I knew what kind of man he was and the vision he had for this program.”
Swinney’s family-first approach has pervaded the staff, Batson included. His oldest son, Michael, is a punter for the Tigers. After Michael walked on to the team in 2015, Batson’s wife, Susan, decided last Christmas to frame every family picture that had been taken at Howard’s Rock over the years.
“She framed every picture together, from the time we were holding both of our boys (Michael, Ben) until now,” smiled Batson. “Our kids have grown up here, so they don’t know anything else. Clemson has been very special to me. We’ll definitely be Tigers for life.”
Both of Batson’s sons play football (Ben is a junior quarterback at Daniel High School), and he makes sure to offer words of wisdom he has learned from a long career that planted him in Clemson over 20 years ago.
“I tell them to compete every day,” he added. “There’s a bunch of folks knocking on the door that would love to be at Clemson. Every day I go to work, I’m fighting for my job. The day I’m not willing to compete is the day they find someone else. It’s a lesson you can take from high school and college football into life, because it’s about being the best you can be and finding that ultimate balance.”
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