Lynn Swann performed unequaled athletic feats in several sports at Serra High in San Mateo between the years of 1966-70. He went on to play football as a wide receiver at USC and for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Swann was also an all-league basketball player and a California state champion in track and field. His football coach once said, "if Serra wanted to win a tennis title, they'd give a tennis racket to Lynn."
Swann, who took dance lessons and wanted to follow his two older brothers to San Mateo, returned to Serra on Friday and was honored in a special assembly inside Serra's gymnasium as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate's "Hometown Hall of Famers" program.
His parents, Mildred and Willie Swann, and his godparents, were also in attedance.
"I always wanted to come back for the reunions but they were held during football season," Swann said afterward. "I was never able to get back. This is as close as it comes."
It was quite a reunion, which included many of his former high school teammates, coaches and administrators.
"This is one of the best things that could have happened to me," Swann said of his years at Serra. "Life long friendships were made. In my mind these are the most important years of your life. It's the foundation of what you take to college."
Swann unveiled his plaque with the help of his former dance instructor, Les Williams, an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
"I owe him," Swann said of Williams. "I took dance lessons from the fourth grade until my junior year in high school. After Super Bowl X, when I was named MVP, someone referred to me as the 'Baryshnikov of football.' I didn't pay anyone to do that either."
When he leapt to catch a football, it was pure poetry, even on the high school fields of the Bay Area.
"My junior year we were mediocre. We didn't know if we were good enough," former Serra teammate Karl Vorsatz said. "We had a wide receiver, Mike Belinski, an outstanding athlete, who broke his arm in an early practice. So Lynn Swann gets called up from the junior varsity. We scrimmaged Jefferson and Jesse Freitas, Jr. throws this pass about 30 yards downfield and Swann goes straight up to catch it, like he was an elevator. We knew this guy was unreal."
Pete Jensen, a long-time baseball coach at Serra, played for Hillsdale High. He was on the other sideline when Swann was a sophomore.
"I had played against his brother Calvin, and I knew how good he was," Jensen said. "We didn't know anything about Lynn until we showed up to play them. I think he returned a punt for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass or two against us. He was a show, just an unbelievable player. He burst on the scene without anyone knowing."
Swann spoke in front of a wall where Serra's best athletes are honored as "Blanket Award winners."
Almost directly above his head was 1954's blanket recipient John Robinson, who went on to coach football at USC and in the NFL. Other names stood out, like Jim Fregosi,Tim Cullen and Dan Frisella, the first of dozens of Padres' baseball players to reach the major leagues.
One of Swann's classmates, who was in attendance, is Dr. Tom McBreen, who earned a bronze medal in swimming at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. McBreen once held the world record in the 400 free.
Barry Bonds, Greg Jefferies and many others reached stardom after Serra High, but none of them could reach the stars like Swann.
"Lynn Swann taught me something I didn't really know much about," former Serra teammate Dick Stapenhorst said. "When he was a senior, Freitas asked him to play quarterback. I thought Freitas was crazy. But he unselfishly played the position. He gave up what he wanted for everyone else. For that I am grateful."
San Mateo Allstate agent Michael Glazer officially presented the school with the plaque and special road sign, San Mateo councilwoman Maureen Freschet (a Notre Dame grad) presented Swann with a city proclamation, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin's representative Joe Fazio presented him with a resolution and student body president Roy Whalen presented him with a Serra jacket.
Serra principal Barry Thornton ended the festivities calling Swann "the most spectacular Padre of all."
Get the latest news from San Mateo:
- Sign up for the San Mateo Patch daily newsletter
- Blog for San Mateo Patch
- "Like" San Mateo Patch on Facebook
- Follow us on Twitter @SanMateoPatch