The views of the author are not necessarily the views of AllOnGeorgia.
Aaron Swinson said a few things that really hit home with me Saturday night when he spoke at the Glynn County Sports Hall of Fame Ambassadors event to honor outstanding senior student-athletes from local high schools.
And, I hope the former Brunswick High and Auburn standout said many more things that got the attention of the young people who were being honored for their academic and athletic success.
I do know this. Sitting a few rows behind the group, I saw that Swinson had their attention as they sat in the front row at the Glynn Academy Auditorium and looked up at the tall and lanky former pro basketball star who spoke directly to them as he paced from one end of the stage to the other.
One thing that Swinson mentioned was his circle of friends. He chose not to have a signing ceremony when he signed his letter-of-intent with Auburn and now wishes he had done one so he could publicly thank them for helping him achieve his dream of playing college basketball.
He also mentioned that these same friends continued to support him during his freshman season on The Plains when he had to sit out because he was academically ineligible that first year with the Tigers.
If you go to Swinson’s Facebook page, you will see that he almost always ends his posts with several hashtags including #HelloBrunswickGA.
This is what the Auburn radio announcer used to say whenever Swinson would throw down a thunderous dunk. Today, though, Swinson uses that phrase to let people know where he is from and that he is proud to call Brunswick his home.
Swinson hasn’t ever forgotten where he came from, where he got his start in the game. That is something I admire about him and I know others do as well.
The 1990 Brunswick High graduate mentioned all those who helped him along the way when he was inducted into the Glynn County Sports Hall of Fame back in 2012 and his head coach in high school, O.C. Baker, was high on that list.
It’s always neat to sit on stage at the hall of fame induction ceremonies and hear the inductees humbly thank those that helped them reach their goals and live out their dreams in athletics including their parents, other family members, mentors, teachers, coaches, teammates, pastors and friends.
Most of them realize they didn’t get where they wanted to go by themselves. They had the talent, the work ethic, mental fortitude and all those things, but it was everyone else who provided the emotional support, the encouragement and maybe even the financial backing until they could make the money to support themselves and their athletic ambitions.
But along that same line, the Golden Isles as a whole can be a support group. It can be a fan base that cheers for the local guys and gals as they compete on stages bigger than the ones they once played on here in Glynn County.
The other night, Swinson mentioned that when these young people succeed we all succeed, referencing everyone who lives in the community. After all, they are representing Glynn County and people are often introduced to our little place along the Georgia coast because of our hometown athletes.
At one point, he looked at Marcus Scott, a Brunswick basketball player who was among the honorees, and said they called me when y’all won and they called me when y’all lost.
Swinson was talking about friends who dialed his cell number to let him know about the Pirates winning the state championship in 2015 and falling in the finals in 2017.
As proud BHS alums, they wanted one of the all-time Brunswick greats to know what was happening back home. And though he was busy coaching his own team, he wanted to know what the Pirates were doing and appreciated the phone calls.
Brunswick is bigger now than when Swinson attended the old BHS on Habersham Street. We have more people, more places to eat and shop and more traffic as a result.
When you talk about the greater community and bring St. Simons Island into the mix, it’s really not the small, quiet place that it used to be.
Still, though, the Golden Isles hasn’t lost that small-town pride that even smaller places like Jesup and Folkston have.
That is especially evident in the sports world. People root for the hometown golfers such as Davis Love III, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson in professional golf tournaments. A PGA Tour event is more fun when Tiger Woods is on the leaderboard, but it’s also more exciting when Brian Harman or Harris English are contending on a Sunday afternoon.
People obviously root for Adam Wainwright. The kids adore the former Glynn Academy standout and current St. Louis Cardinals pitcher and the adults respect him. That was evident the night he was here for the dedication of the new Wainwright Field he built for the Red Terrors.
People rooted for Kwame Brown when he played in the NBA after an All-American prep career at Glynn.
Today, people root for Darius Slay, an all-star cornerback for the Detroit Lions who once starred at Brunswick High.
People get behind Katie Burnett when the former BHS golfer is making noise on the LPGA Tour.
The local folks cheer on former Frederica Academy soccer star Morgan Brian as she competes with the U.S. National team. The team recently played a friendly in Jacksonville against Mexico and several from here made the short trip to see Brian play in person.
And even though we are supposed to be objective as a journalist, some of us like writing feel-good stories, believe it or not. So, it’s easy to get caught up in rooting for the local guy.
I certainly remember running from tee box to green back in 2003 when Love put on a show in the final round at The Players Championship to win for the second time on the Stadium Course.
I remember getting nervous when Wainwright was on the mound against the New York Mets in Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series. The rookie reliever from St. Simons Island struck out Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded with his sharp-breaking curve ball to send the Cardinals to the World Series. They would go on to win the Fall Classic and Wainwright was indeed a hero back home and in St. Louis, one of the country’s biggest baseball cities.
I remember how excited I was to attend Kwame’s first training camp with the Washington Wizards after he was the first-ever high school player taken No. 1 in the NBA draft.
I didn’t get to talk to Kwame or Michael Jordan as the Wizards management took them away after practice, but I did get to interview Brendan Haywood on the floor at UNC-Wilmington about both players.
It was cool to see former BHS standout Justin Coleman get a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots. It was cool to see Slay make the NFL Pro Bowl for the first time last season.
And it was cool to see Swinson on stage Saturday night as someone who used to work long and hard picking tobacco as a kid and now is working long and hard as a women’s collegiate basketball coach.
Continue to make us proud, hometown heroes. People here at home are watching you and rooting for you.
And so, Aaron, if you don’t mind, I’ll end with this in honor of hometown pride: