But getting to that point was another challenge altogether for Swinney.
It was the summer of 1989 and after working all summer cleaning gutters, which he had done since he was 14, mowing yards and selling knives to housewives door-to-door, Swinney thought he was set to begin his career as an Alabama football player.
Despite all the distractions at home, he remained an A student and was a member of the Honors Society at Pelham High School.
He also was a star athlete, lettering in three sports including the sport he loved more than any other – football.
Swinney remembers those days as embarrassing times for him, especially when he had to get his coaches and friends to help him and his mother move away from his dad.
“It was very embarrassing because I hide things from my friends. She came from a very functional, normal family, and mine was the exact opposite,” he said.
“I was playing three sports and I was excelling, and I was trying to do the best I can,” he said. Going to Alabama was a dream come true for the boy who grew up watching the Paul “Bear” Bryant show every Sunday afternoon. I wanted a better life.” So Swinney moved to Tuscaloosa when he was 18 years old, and though he was in school and loved the fact he was a student at the University of Alabama, something was still missing in his life.
He missed playing football and while watching a game from the stands during his freshman year, he leaned over to his future wife and said, “I can do that.” “The next week I went and met with the coaches, and of course they thought I was crazy,” he said.His dad’s drinking led to arguments, then fighting and then it slowly started to separate the family.Swinney’s dad would stay gone until the early morning hours at times and soon things started to go south for his business, forcing him to move his operations inside his home.“Her family is very educated and functional, mine was very dysfunctional and uneducated, but she did not care.But when you are young, you worry about things like that.” But Swinney persevered.“It was just the things that come along with living with an alcoholic,” Swinney said. He started to have financial problems.” And then the family broke up.