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Sep 02, 2018

Loyal to the End


Note: The following appears in the Furman gameday football program

Most of us have attended a high school or college reunion. The receding hairlines and expanding waistlines may be hidden during the 10-year reunion, but both of those traits are fairly evident for all to see at the 25-year gathering.

Clemson defense ends coach Lemanski Hall and head coach Dabo Swinney may (or may not) still have their youthful good looks from their playing days at Alabama. But the life-long friendship and working relationship should indicate the group of defensive ends is in good hands for years to come.

Hall, a native of Valley, Ala., is in his first year in an on-field coaching role at Clemson, but his experience on Swinney’s staff as a defensive analyst (2015,16) and senior defensive assistant (2017), combined with lengthy coaching experience at the high-school level and a long-time NFL playing career, is making the transition an easy one.

“I have gone from someone who could not coach on the field the last three years to having the responsibility of leading a group,” said Hall. “Being back on the field this past spring coaching was a great experience. I don’t think you ever stop learning as a player or as a coach. The opportunity to be around such a special group makes it that much more rewarding.”

Serving as an analyst and a senior defensive assistant during the last three years with Clemson made the transition a smooth one for Hall. The opportunity to be part of a coaching staff that notched a 40-4 record with three College Football Playoff appearances and a national title has shown him what to expect.

“I learned so much from watching coach (Brent) Venables and the intensity he brings each and every day,” explained Hall. “Coach (Dan) Brooks and coach (Marion) Hobby were so organized in everything they did. There was no doubt about the direction of this program.”

When speaking of all the success enjoyed by the Tigers in recent years, Hall knows it all starts at the top with his former Alabama teammate and friend, Swinney. Hall, who led the Crimson Tide in tackles en route to the 1992 national championship, has been close with Swinney since their matriculation to Tuscaloosa. One of the first staff meetings he took part in at Clemson took him back to the 1990s.

“Coach Swinney has not changed at all. I can remember one of my first days here at Clemson when he led our staff meeting. I said to myself, ‘wow!’ Our relationship goes back over 25 years. He is like a brother to me. He was a teammate that was always there for me. I have always loved him and love him for this opportunity.”

Swinney is glad Hall answered his call to come to Clemson. While the head coach and former wide receiver jokes that he can still beat Hall on a fade route, he knows the nine-year NFL veteran as a person who took part in activities such as the NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship during his seven-year stint at The Ensworth School in Nashville, Tenn.

“It is great to have Lemanski at Clemson,” said Swinney. “This is a guy who played at the highest level for a long time. He coached in high school at a very good program. For the past three years, he added so much to our staff in the role of an analyst. I have no doubt he will be an awesome addition for us.”

If past success is an indication of future achievement, Clemson will continue to win and win big with Hall involved. Between his playing career at Alabama and time at Clemson, he has been a part of 80 victories and two national titles. Hall knows there is no “secret sauce” when it comes to these eye-popping numbers.

“The culture is what it all boils down to,” said Hall. “When I was at Alabama, we believed we were going to win because coach (Gene) Stallings had us prepared to win. He was the leader and understood what it took to win. He brought in great players and had great coaches that believed. That is the same thing that is happening at Clemson. Coach Swinney is a leader who has established a culture that our guys believe in.”

Another positive in the move to Clemson for Hall and his wife, Leslie, and children, Cameron, Jalen and Kennedi, is the return to a small college town.

“I am from a small town, but throughout my NFL career, I lived in big cities. It is great to be back in a town like Clemson. You can walk downtown and everyone speaks to you. It just feels like home. We are excited to be here and hope to be a part of this community for a long time.”