Nashville is known for hot chicken, cool hipsters, bad college football and hard whiskey. Mostly, of course, it’s an industry town in which every other barista is potentially the next Kelsea Ballerini and that guy waiting for the bus is scribbling lyrics on the back of a Bojangles wrapper.
But on Thursday night Music City and the first round of the 2019 NFL draft mesh as sweetly as Lady Antebellum.
Perfect for Dabo Swinney.
The pro football talent acquisition show is just another commercial for Dabo World, a don’t pinch-me-or-I-might-wake up streak of success for Clemson fans that includes two national titles in three years and more in store.
Swinney will be on hand in Nashville for the first round, and so will Tigers defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.
“Oh, yeah, I love country music,” Swinney said this week. Favorites?
The Zac Brown Band
As many as three Clemson players — Wilkins and fellow defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence — are projected to go in the first round.
If so, that’s a new first-round record for a South Carolina school, which is something to sing about.
To the twang of steel guitars.
“I just love Carrie Underwood,” Swinney said.
He also mentioned …
A record 10 Clemson players were picked in 1983, the famed NFL draft in which John Elway was the No. 1 pick, Dan Marino was the last pick in the first round and six quarterbacks were first-round picks.
But asterisks, please: The 1983 draft lasted 12 rounds; five 1983 Clemson picks were selected after the seventh round.
Clemson has 11 draft prospects for the seven rounds stretched out from Thursday night to Saturday. The group includes Wilkins, Ferrell, Lawrence, Trayvon Mullen, Austin Bryant, Mark Fields, Hunter Renfrow, Tre Lamar, Albert Huggins, Mitch Hyatt and Kendall Joseph.
“It’s great to see a highly ranked guy like Christian come in and leave that way,” Swinney said. “It’s great to see a guy like Clelin, who wasn’t as highly ranked, to come in and develop. It’s neat to see them fulfill their dreams. This is something we want our program to be known for, it’s a part of it.”
Bryan Bresee, Garth Brooks
The current Clemson draft prospect list is about as long as Swinney’s eventual haul of top high school prospects for the 2020 recruiting class. The latest big get came Tuesday with the commitment of Damascus, Md., defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, rated No. 4 nationally by ESPN. Commitments from defensive end Myles Murphy of Powder Springs, Ga., (ESPN No. 5) and quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei of Bellflower, Calif., (ESPN No. 20) would probably lock Clemson into the No. 1-rated recruiting class for the year.
Or as impressive as Swinney’s list of go-to country music singers, which also includes …
“I’m old school, too,” Swinney said. “I’m never going to forget about Shania.”
The Kendall Joseph pitch
Talk about old school, how about Kendall Joseph? He isn’t as big as most new-wave linebackers, and maybe not as fast.
But at 6-0, 225, Joseph is one of Swinney’s favorite overachievers.
“He’s a football player,” Swinney said. “I know he didn’t have great measurables when he tested but some guys run fast and some guys play fast. He plays fast. He’s an instinctive, incredibly smart football player who can do everything you needed to do at that position.”
That includes reading quarterbacks, getting off blocks and the fine art of run-block recognition.
If you’re scoring at home, Swinney mentioned a total of 11 country music artists when I asked for favorites.
Which coincidentally matches the number of Clemson players he hopes to see picked in a 2019 NFL draft the Tigers are using as a primary sales pitch while compiling a recruiting class likely to go platinum.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff