Napier found the right one

CLEMSON - When a couple gets married, the old saying goes the first year is always the toughest. That definitely was the case for Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier and his wife Ali.

When the two married last summer, everything seemed to be in place for the young couple as they adjusted to married life.

Napier was an up-and-coming football coach that was responsible for signing one of Clemson's best recruiting classes ever.

As the tight ends coach he was entering his third season at Clemson and his second year as the recruiting coordinator. He was being called one of the best recruiters in the country and at the same time he was supposed to be part of squad that was a preseason top 10 and the favorite to win the ACC Championship.

Looking back, Billy Napier was supposed to get married, it appeared 2008 was definitely the time to do it.

But then came the Alabama game to open the season, and just when it had seemed Clemson had fixed the problems and was poised to make a run towards an ACC Title, it hit rock bottom again.

First they blew a second-half lead to Maryland at home and then followed that up with an uninspiring defeat at the hands of Wake Forest the following Thursday night.

Four days later, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden was fired as head coach and so began the whirlwind.

While trying to salvage a top five recruiting class that was falling apart at every corner, Napier was also trying to help run an offense that had lost its confidence and identity and saw its offensive coordinator fired.

"We had a lot of momentum going and had one of the best classes in the country coming together for a second straight year," he said. "So as I look back at that, I think, 'Man we had it going.' We had it rolling. I think about that a lot.

"We had a couple of the best safeties in the country and we had leads on some of the other best players in the country so that goes to show it is 'Show me the Money' to some degree. You have to go and win games. All that other stuff is great, but this is a game about productivity."

But through it all, Napier said there was one thing that was consistent in his life at the time - his newlywed wife, Ali.

"All of this is what we do, it isn't who we are," Napier said. "Whether we are winning or losing she is going to be the same person and she has been good to come home to everyday."

But in those early days after Bowden left, Napier did not see home too much. Like head coach Dabo Swinney and the rest of the staff, Napier spent countless hours trying to fix what was wrong and get things turned around.

It wasn't exactly the situation he had envisioned for his first year of marriage. But again, he said Ali never faltered with her support and understanding.

"She has been great," Napier said. "That was part of her marrying me because she knew what came along with it. Regardless of where we are at, we will have a great relationship.

"She understands that I have a lot of pressure and she understands that this is a business. Just like any other job, you try to do your best. She understands that if we have to get up and move, then she will get up and move.

"We don't have any kids and obviously that would change things, but if anything, I think what happened last year has brought us closer together."

With summer already in full swing, the Napier family are looking forward to finally getting a little time off and catching up on some of what they had missed during those trying times in the fall of 2008.

"We try to make a legitimate effort to do things together at certain times during the week and that kind of stuff," Napier said. "We have our schedule pretty ironed out."

And after a turbulent first year as a wife of a college football coach - it sounds like Mrs. Napier deserves a good vacation.

"She is very supportive. I got the right one," Napier added. Top Stories