Martavis Bryant's Clemson football career was hanging by a thread.
Having come to an 'enough is enough' conclusion, Dabo Swinney faced a test of his own resolve and leadership.
So last December, Swinney delivered the word: Bryant would not be accompanying the Tigers on their Chick-fil-A Bowl date with LSU.
"Sitting at home, not getting bowl gifts, not getting bowl money, having to watch his team play without him - you'd hope all that would get his attention," Swinney said.
"That's why I did it. If I'd just been worried about beating LSU, I'd have said 'Don't worry about all those study halls you keep missing - come on, I need you, big boy.' Because he's 6-5, can fly and can catch a football.
"But we're much more than that in this program. I'd much rather lose doing it right than to win knowing I'm doing it wrong."
The story has a happy ending.
Clemson beat LSU without Bryant, and the Tigers' rising junior wide receiver has taken his last chance at a new beginning and has run with it.
"I've had nothing on him - January, February, and now we're almost out of March," said Swinney last Wednesday after the Tigers' first-full scale scrimmage, in which Bryant hauled in two touchdown passes. "I mean nothing - not one thing in any area. I'm proud of him. He's never been this consistent in any area. And it's showing up on the field."
Before the suspension, Swinney said that Bryant "wasn't slipping - he had slipped."
"There was one line hanging and he held on and pulled himself up out of the hole," Swinney said. "I give him credit, because he had to do it. I tell these guys all the time that it's never too late to do what's right.
"Martavis isn't a bad guy, not at all. He's just been an immature, uncommitted guy - off the field, academically, in the meeting rooms, on the practice field, in the way he's prepared, not being dependable."
On the field, Bryant has often flashed his ability, but has been inconsistent in his performance.
"Accountability, responsibility, dependability, trust-ability - those are the 'abilities' that matter," said Swinney. "He's got plenty of ability, it's all them other ones that have kept him from being a complete player. He's had some great moments, but he's been inconsistent. When you're not fully committed, you're going to be inconsistent."
Swinney knows that Bryant's turnaround has only begun.
"He manned up, came back, and, to his credit, has done everything he's been asked to do," Swinney said. "But he has zero money in the bank, and he knows that. You can't get any money out of the ATM if you don't put something in there.
"He's got a few nickels in there now. But I want to make the point again that I'm proud of Martavis. And his teammates are proud of him."
Swinney said since committing himself, Bryant's entire demeanor has changed.
"It's just fun to see him smile," Swinney said. "All of a sudden, when you're committed, you start feeling good about yourself. And when you start having success, your confidence grows, and it starts to trickle out into all the other areas.
"I know his mama and his grandmama are proud of him, too. They deserve a lot of credit, because they've really sacrificed for him. And they've challenged him when he's needed it...
"He's got a smile on his face, and I just love his body language and demeanor. That's a good thing for Clemson."