Clemson Football: Former Tigers, others react to Kelly Bryant ring situation

Former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant did not get a national championship ring and a few people don’t agree with Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s decision.

In an article by ESPN writer Chris Low, Dabo Swinney explained why Kelly Bryant hasn’t received a 2018 College Football Playoffs National Championship ring.

“He wasn’t on the team. You’ve gotta be on the team to get a ring.” I love Kelly and appreciate what he did for us, but he decided to move on,” said Swinney.

Dabo’s answer sparked conversations and in turn, varying reactions. We here at Rubbing the Rock asked a few people under anonymity, the question:

Does Kelly Bryant deserve a national championship ring?

“I support coach’s decision. When you quit you forfeit all rights.” –Former Clemson player coached by Dabo.

“To be honest if that was my son, I don’t think he deserved a ring either. But he definitely had to do what was best for him which is go somewhere, start and get him a shot at the league.” –Parent of a current Clemson player. 

“I agree- it’s a TEAM journey, and Kelly made the decision to leave the TEAM- and pursue a individual interest. I don’t blame him for doing it but don’t look back and say I should get a ring for my little contribution to start the year. It’s a journey and a process of adversities that a TEAM has to over come during the process and journey- Kelly gave that up and pursued a individual interest!! Not part of the TEAM ANY MORE! Should not receive the benefits!!!”[as texted] –High school coach of a former Clemson player.

“I can see both sides of the discussion, but if I had to make the decision. It would be, no ring for Bryant. The argument that Clemson wouldn’t have a championship without his contribution in the Texas A&M game doesn’t fly. No one can say that for certain-he did his thing but that was the fourth game. There was a lot of football left in the season. He made the best decision for himself and left the team. I understand why he did it, but he shouldn’t get a ring.” –A former Clemson and NFL player. 

“That’s just crazy! I totally don’t think he deserves a ring. I’m over it! It used to make me crazy when my kid played city league and kids wouldn’t even come to practice and then the parents would get mad because their kid didn’t get playing time. I swear there would be kids who we didn’t even see all season but yet, they showed up at the end of season party to get a trophy!😂😂” –Clemson fan from outside of South Carolina with kids who want to play for Dabo. 

“No. I don’t think he should’ve gotten a ring and the reason is because he left on his own free will. He really wanted to go. It was out of the coaches control. I just don’t think you should get a ring when you weren’t actively on the team. I totally back up what Dabo is doing.” –Parent of a current Clemson player.

“Well, he left the team instead of staying, so no. He should’ve been a team player.” –2020 football prospect. 

One of the most outrageous reactions, notice I didn’t say surprising, is from SEC Network host of “The Paul Finebaum Show”, Paul Finebaum.

“It is difficult for Dabo to appear more petty and vindictive. This will come back to haunt him in recruiting,” tweeted Finebaum on Thursday.

Petty and vindictive? Strong words. Let’s just define “vindictive.” The definition is to have and show strong or unreasoning desire for revenge.

Bryant was never asked to transfer from Clemson. He was not, however, going to be the starter against Syracuse. Here’s what Dabo said to the media after Bryant decided to leave the team and seek a transfer.

You just have to respect his decision, this is what he feels is best for him, even though you don’t agree with it. I did tell him if he wanted to go somewhere else and play, next year,  I would agree to not play him the rest of the year but continue to stay and be a part of it if that’s what he wanted to do, but it’s not what he wanted to do. He made a decision he felt was best for him, and you have to respect that and move on. He has to move on, we’ve got to move on and get ready to play Syracuse.

Trevor Lawrence and Bryant split time at the quarterback position during the first four games and Clemson was 4-0. When Dabo told Bryant he wouldn’t be the starter going forward it was after the fourth game which allowed him to redshirt and play a year at Missouri. Dabo could have waited after the fifth game to make the quarterback change, and Bryant would have been stuck at Clemson. By making the change, he gave Bryant a chance to stay as the backup or redshirt. Bryant took the redshirt but also “left the team immediately.” Dabo was surprised when Bryant decided to leave the team.

Vindictive? Bryant never asked Dabo for a ring.

“Just to clarify, Dabo Swinney’s comments to me about Kelly Bryant not receiving a national championship ring came after I asked Swinney about it during our visit, as I was following up on what Bryant told colleague @AschoffESPN in his excellent feature on Bryant last month,” said Low  Thursday evening on Twitter after reactions to his article.

From Ed Aschoff’s July feature on Bryant:

“Clemson players and staff members received their ACC championship, College Football Playoff and national championship rings in April, and while Bryant started four games for Clemson last year, he didn’t receive any. Bryant said he’d certainly take them if offered, but when asked if he would send a ring to Bryant, Swinney told ESPN in July, “No.”

Apparently, Coach and player have never discussed rings and per Aschoff’s feature the two haven’t even spoke since Sept. 25.

NFL players get a ring if their team cuts them in a championship year but not if a player leaves the team. Bryant left the team, and Clemson played 11 games without him.

Bryant is highly respected and well liked among his former teammates. He continues to have a relationship with them and doesn’t seem to have any harsh words towards Clemson, either.

“It’s life……it was tough in the moment,” he said at SEC Media Day. “But I can’t thank Clemson enough for the opportunity they gave me to play there being a kid from South Carolina, playing for his hometown state. Just shaping me into who I am today.”

Bryant saw the decision by Dabo to start Lawrence over him as a business decision, and he understood it. But he didn’t like it. Dabo saw Bryant’s decision to transfer as a business decision and he understood it. And he didn’t like it.

Coach and player both understood the situation and parted ways-Bryant is the starting quarterback at Missouri and Dabo coaching a team looking to win back-to-back championships.

Next: South Carolina fans have forgotten history

We forget that Bryant was the first player to transfer in this way, so it was new. But what isn’t new is coaches and players making decisions that are best for them and the team. That is what happened at Clemson. Both have moved on and so should we.

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