Lynn Curtis Swann life and biography

Lynn Curtis Swann picture, image, poster

Lynn Curtis Swann biography

Date of birth : 1952-03-07
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Alcoa, Tennessee, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2010-08-20
Credited as : Football player NFL, played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, won Super Bowl X

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When Mildred Swann was carrying her third child, she hoped for a girl. She and husband Willie already had two sons, Brian and Calvin. Fortunately for football fans, she didn't get what she wanted. Lynn Curtis Swann came into this world on March 7, 1952, in Alcoa, Tennessee. He would become one of the most breathtaking receivers in NFL history.

In an era dominated by punishing defenses and nose-to-the-grindstone running attacks, Lynn Swann was a refreshing change of pace. He was poetry in pads, a once-in-a-generation mixture of raw speed, scintillating athleticism, supreme focus, unquestioned courage, unusual intelligence and that ever-elusive X-factor: years of childhood dance training.

After an All-American career at USC, Lynn joined the Pittsburgh Steelers, and with John Stallworth formed one of the most devastating receiving tandems the game has ever seen. Number 88 was at his best in the big games. He won four championships with the Steelers, and etched his name in the annals of NFL folklore with his MVP performance in Super Bowl X against the Dallas Cowboys. In that game he made only four receptions, but each was a work of art.

When Lynn left the game, he transitioned into a broadcasting career. In fact, the current generation of sports fans may know him better as ABC's top reporter on the sidelines, rather than a guy who used to streak down them. A successful businessman, he currently serves as the Chairman for the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Lynn’s athletic prowess and solid schoolwork earned him a scholarship to Junipero Serra High School—which has also produced the likes of Barry Bonds and Tom Brady—in the San Francisco suburb of San Mateo in 1966. There he embarked on a legendary football career, both as a receiver and quarterback. He was also state champion in the long jump, and at one point toyed with the idea of going to the Olympics. Lynn attended the predominantly white Serra High during a time of great social unrest and racial tension in northern California. This made his teenage years extremely complex at times. He often wondered whether his classmates accepted him only because he was a star athlete; pals from his old neighborhood acted like he had betrayed them by leaving.

Lynn's next stop was USC, where he developed into a dynamite receiver under coach John McKay. During his three varsity seasons with the Trojans, 1971 to 1973, he played on some deep, talented teams. Besides headline-grabbing Anthony Davis, Lynn’s teammates included future pro stars Sam Cunningham, Charles Young, Pat Haden, Richard Wood, Bill Bain and Marvin Powell, and All-America candidates John Vella, Pete Adams and Willie Hall. After the '71 campaign—ruined for the Trojans by untimely turnovers—they went undefeated in 1972 and claimed the national championship with a win over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. That happened to be Lynn’s best game of the year—he caught six key passes and had the Buckeye defense in total disarray. USC lost its New Year's Day return match with Ohio State a year later, after a season in which Lynn made All-American and received consideration for the Heisman Trophy.

Lynn was the first wideout taken in the 1974 NFL Draft, going at #21 to the Steelers. It was the first of four key picks for Pittsburgh, in a draft that is still the stuff of war-room legend. After Swann, the team tabbed Jack Lambert out of Kent State, John Stallworth out of Alabama A&M, and Mike Webster out of Wisconsin. Four Hall of Famers—not a bad afternoon’s work. But 24 hours after learning the location of his new football home, Lynn found himself sitting in a San Francisco jail cell, wrongly arrested during the time of the city's notorious Zebra killings. Lynn and several family members were targeted in what today would be a clear-cut case of racial profiling. They eventually sued the city and won.

Under the shadow of this incident, Lynn arrived in Pittsburgh for training camp. With Mean Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham and Andy Russell leading the defense and a solid running game featuring Franco Harris, coach Chuck Noll was building a dynasty. Coming off two straight trips to the playoffs, the Steelers were poised to go all the way to the Super Bowl. Lynn was expected to provide the Pittsburgh attack with a needed spark as a receiver and punt returner.

The 1974 season became shrouded in uncertainty that July, when NFL veterans walked out in the NFLPA’s first major strike. When the labor dispute was settled, a Steeler quarterback controversy developed between Terry Bradshaw and Joe Gilliam, which was painted as a black-white issue in the media. For a team on the brink of greatness, this series of events threatened to cause the kinds of permanent rifts that keep clubs from reaching their potential.

Pittsburgh finished the regular season at 10-3-1, earning homefield advantage in the playoffs. Lynn caught just 11 passes—though his average per reception was 18.9 yards—but by the post-season he was becoming a go-to guy for Bradshaw. In the AFC Championship Game, he made a crucial fourth-quarter touchdown reception to key a 24-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders. In Super Bowl IX, the Steelers completed only nine passes (none to Lynn) as Pittsburgh manhandled the Minnesota Vikings in the trenches and won, 16-6.

The Steelers went on to capture three more Super Bowls, cementing their legacy as one of history’s greatest teams. Greene, Ham, Harris, Bradshaw, Webster, Stallworth, Lambert, Mel Blount and L.C. Greenwood earned repeated All-Pro nods, while Lynn was honored three times himself. From 1974 to 1982, he caught 336 passes for 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns. He led the league in TDs with 11 in 1975, and reeled in 111 balls during the 1977 and ’78 seasons.

There may never be another receiving duo like Swann and Stallworth. Both came into the league in 1974, and within a few years they had given the hard-nosed Steelers a glamorous passing component. From 1977 to 1979, they combined for more than 100 receptions a year, racked up more than 5,000 yards, and scored 47 touchdowns. One was almost always in single coverage, a luxury which Bradshaw took full advantage of. Linked forever in the minds of football fans, they even ushered each other into the Hall of Fame. Lynn asked John to introduce him when he was inducted in 2001, and introduced John when he went in a year later.

Lynn played under two legendary coaches, John McKay at USC and Chuck Noll with the Steelers. While their football philosophies were similar, their personalities weren't. McKay was a master motivator with a wicked sense of humor. In 16 years with the Trojans he posted a record of 127-40-8, including four national titles. Noll, also a brilliant leader, was far more reserved—more the subtle manipulator. The only coach to win four Super Bowls, he took over the struggling Pittsburgh franchise in 1969, and three year later the Steelers were AFC champs. Both coaches believed that a strong defense and running game were the keys to success in football. Lynn would have put up bigger numbers on more pass-happy teams, but he was perfectly content playing for perennial title contenders.

Lynn knew early in his playing career that he wanted to go into television when he retired. A fixture on ABC for more than 20 years, he has covered everything from Olympic weightlifting to the Iditarod in Alaska. In the mid-80s he teamed with Keith Jackson on ABC's featured telecasts of the United States Football League—still popular fare on ESPN Classic. Lynn is probably best known as a sideline reporter for the network's college and pro football broadcasts.

Lynn’s lifelong commitment to charitable causes and volunteer organizations made him a natural choice for Chairman of the President's Council for Physical Fitness and Sports. He also serves on the national Board of Directors for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America. In addition, Lynn has created a youth scholarship program for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater school.

It has been more than two decades since Lynn last strapped on the pads, yet his resume continues to grow. An enshrinee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Hall of Fame and the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame, he received the Walter Camp Football Foundation Man of the Year Award in 1997 and was honored with the NCAA’s Silver Anniversary Award in 1999. In 2000, he was presented with the Pop Warner Little Scholars Tomlin Award and the Pittsburgh YMCA Man of the Year Award. Lynn’s position with President's Council for Physical Fitness and Sports has sharpened his focus on the future, yet he is still asked constantly about his past. Just how does a man of his stature perceive his own football legacy? We couldn’t resist…

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