CLEMSON, SC — KJ Henry loves to remind Dabo Swinney how he became the head coach at Clemson.
“I tell Coach Swinney all the time, if my dad doesn’t beat him, then he doesn’t get this job. We are the reason he got this job. Wake Forest beat Clemson,” the Tigers’ graduate defensive end said with a big grin earlier this week.
Henry is right. Wake Forest beat the Tigers, 12-7, on October 9, 2008. Four days later, Tommy Bowden resigned as head coach and Swinney was named the interim. The rest is history.
By the way, the Demon Deacons have not beaten the Tigers since.
Henry’s father, Keith, was coaching on Jim Grobe’s staff at the time. In all, he spent 11 years in Winston-Salem from 2001-2011, helping Wake to five bowl games and winning the 2006 ACC Championship.
During his time at Wake Forest, the elder Henry was the special teams coordinator, as well as coached the outside linebackers, defensive ends and defensive backs.
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“We were there for a long time,” Henry recalls. “A lot of great years, 2006 ACC Championship… It was a good tenure there for sure.”
That’s why Wake Forest week is always special to Henry. It is where he grew up. It is where he went to high school.
“It’s a home game. I am excited,” he said.
Before he was a Clemson Tiger, Henry was a Demon Deacon.
“Every time I play this team, but especially when I go home, there are definitely flashbacks,” he said. “When my father coached for them, I was six-years-old, seven-years-old and I would be in the family section with a yellow wig, cheering like no tomorrow for the Demon Deacons.
“So, I know what their home locker room looks like. I know what it’s like to run out after the motorcycle. I am on the rival side for sure, which I love this side. But anytime I get to come home, I love it. It’s one of a kind for sure.”
Clemson and Wake Forest will kick off at noon on Saturday.