By Don Wallace
The legend of Dr. James “Jim” Swink just keeps on growing.
Not that he would want it to, it just has a live of its own.
Swink, was always the charming football hero with straight A’s, who did the right thing.
Now some 52 years after he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated for his exploits as a half back at TCU, Swink is still giving back to his alma mater at Rusk.
The lobby of Citizens 1st Bank in downtown Rusk is full of memorabilia, including rare black and white game films, from Swink’s football career at Rusk and TCU. Also in the lobby is an impressive array of awards he received during his spectacular career with the Horned Frogs.
Swink is a member of the Texas High Football Hall of Fame, the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame and the National College Academic Hall of Fame, The Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame and the Texas Athletics Hall of Fame and the 2005 recipient of the Doak Walkers Legends Award.
While running the ball for the purple frogs, Swink was named All-American twice, he was a four time SWC All-Academic member and twice All-American academically. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, losing the prestigious honor to Howard “Hopalong” Cassady of Ohio State.
His awards on being displayed at the bank through Friday, they will be donated to Rusk ISD to be displayed.
Swink, now 70 and retired from a long and successful medical career, is below his playing weight. He still has a twinkle in his eye when tells a story that lets you know he was no ordinary player.
“I was lucky, I was on a good team with a coach I got along with at TCU,” Swink said, downplaying his exploits.
The Horned Frogs plucked Swink off the Rusk campus with a promise he would be the starting half back the next year. Swink had offers from other schools, including the University of Texas. He said the Longhorns had a deadline set and he would not sign until after May because he was playing baseball.
“Texas pulled the offer of the table. So later when I was playing them, I always liked to rub it in a little,” Swink said with a grin.
He had 235 yards rushing on just 15 carries against UT his junior year. That season he led the nation in rushing with 1,283 yrds and scored 125 points.
“I played all sports at Rusk, football just came easy to me,” Swink said. “I really liked basketball. Football was just running with the ball, you did not have to dribble or manuever around people. Of course, you had contact, but that was all right with me.”
Swink said at 6-1, 185 pounds he was one of the larger players at Rusk High School back in the days he played for the Class A school in the 50s.
Rusk coach Elmer “Hot dog” Thompson got the most from the Sacul native.
“It’s funny, I was a 185 pound half back and one of the biggest guys,” Swink said. “Then at TCU I was one of the smallest players. But I did make the starting lineup.”
Swink said he not only played offense and defense, but was a kicker and on all special teams.
Swink said, “I was a linebacker in high school on defense. At TCU I played defensive back. I liked it, I was in shape. Many times I did not leave the football field the entire game.”
Playing football was enjoyable for Swink, but his gridiron exploits were just a way for the country boy to pay for college. He turned down offers from professional football to attend Southwestern Medical school.
Swink is proud of his accomplishments as a physician. He also was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Combat Medic Badge, Amry Commendation Medal and the Vitenamese Cross of Gallatry during his service in Vietnam in 1966-67.
The doctor said very little about his war days, only to remark that he was very glad just to survive.
“I was a practicing othopedic surgeon for 35 years,” Swink said with pride. “I had a good career.” Swink practiced in Fort Worth for many years after starting a practice in Tyler immediately after medical school.
In recent years Swink has operated a ranch near Rusk which he still maintains.
Swink said, “In recent years football has become big business and I think it has hurt the sport. When I was playing, I was really a student athlete. Because I studied, went to class and that’s the way it was back then.”
Swink is still a diehard TCU fan and often watches games.
“I had a lot of fun playing football back in the old days,” Swink said. “But like anything you do in life, to do it right it takes a lot of work. I put in the time and happened to play on some good teams.”
Swink wore No. 45 while at Rusk High School, then slipped into jersey No.23 while at TCU.
In the hearts of his fans in Rusk, he’s No.1, he will always be a legendary figure.
How can you tell he’s a legend?
Dr. Swink hasn’t played football in more than half a century and football purist are still talking about his incredible moves and agility. His true friends are even more impressed by his character and love for his school.
The generosity of the 1953 Rusk graduate will soon be on dislay at the school.
By Don Wallace
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