Boyhood memories of Jim Swink

Watching the Rusk Rambler started a lifelong love affair for all things TCU for one alum.

Jim Swink rushed for 2,618 yards on 413 attempts over three season for the Horned Frogs.

Boyhood memories of Jim Swink

Watching the Rusk Rambler started a lifelong love affair for all things TCU for one alum.

It was with thorough pleasure that I read Caroline Collier’s article about TCU’s amazing 2014 football season in TCU Magazine’s last issue. Then with great sadness, I read of Jim Swink’s passing. As a boy, I’d listened to the roar within Amon G. Carter Stadium, a stone’s throw from my home. When the upper deck on its west side went up, reaching for the sky, it seemed to a young boy, the resounding Saturday afternoon echoes grew proportionately in what was to become a temple in my eyes.

The first live glimpse of my eventual hero was from a seat on that lofty western perch. The Horned Frogs were doing battle against the Miami Hurricanes that evening in 1956. (I still have the program.) My dad had witnessed my elementary school efforts as I tried to shuck tacklers and swivel my hips the way I’d watched Swink do it in a newsreel against the Longhorns. How sweet it was, planting within me the seed of a lifelong love affair with TCU and its sports icons. Although I was probably better at imitating the hip moves of Elvis, I always asked for No. 23 in all my future athletic endeavors, a tradition I passed on to my first son.

Swink’s TCU playing days ended after he and his teammates took the measure of Jim Brown and mighty Syracuse in the 1957 Cotton Bowl with that amazing halftime locker room picture captured forever by Sports Illustrated. Swink’s exploits secured in me a love for Amon G. Carter Stadium and the feats of glory within as purple shadows crept over the surrounding landscape. During the coming years, all the way through high school, I made the Saturday pilgrimage to the north end zone stands where 50 cents could buy a kid a seat. The Frogs usually won, and although football is a team sport, its individual players who often create dazzling conversation for weeks and years to come.

For me, the highlight of that era was the 1959 game against vaunted SMU. On that grand sunny afternoon, the Frogs smothered Dandy Don Meredith’s Mustangs. I always felt that made up a little for “The Game of the Century” played in 1935 upon the same yellowed grass. I’d often heard the story from the old-timers in the local barbershop. On that not-so-glorious day, the ’Stangs “stole” victory from Slingin’ Sammy Baugh’s team. One might have thought that Coach Dutch Meyer and Li’l Davey O’Brien’s 1938 national championship would have eased that wound, but not in my neighborhood.

Jim Swink catches a pass in the 1957 Cotton Bowl against Syracuse and mighty Jim Brown.

Jim Swink catches a pass in the 1957 Cotton Bowl against Syracuse and mighty Jim Brown.

When my time came for college, there was never any doubt where I would go. TCU was in my bloodstream. Of course, there was much more to higher education than football and waiting for the next gridiron god to appear. I couldn’t have hoped for a more rewarding four years — surely not as intriguing as those of the great Dan Jenkins ’53 — but nothing more could have been asked from my chosen institution of higher learning where the professors usually knew everyone’s name.

During my junior year, my buddies and I followed the team to the 1965 Sun Bowl. The disappointment that day seemed to issue in the dark days ahead. But along with a legion of Frog Faithful, I followed them through those times, always hoping for the glory to return with the reincarnation of Swink or O’Brien or Baugh, so much more to me than mere ghosts from the past.

Then something happened, something wonderful. I believe it began at the 1998 Sun Bowl, the sight of that debacle 33 years earlier. I watched with unbelieving eyes as LaDainian Tomlinson and company ran over the highly favored USC Trojans. Echoes of Jim Swink sung the Fight Song to me in El Paso as Tomlinson gave us a taste of what was to come. Students and alumni alike parted that evening like it was New Year’s Day 1957, the last time the Horned Frogs had won a bowl game. The faithful lined up to shake Coach Franchione’s hand. A year later, Tomlinson signed my son’s TCU mini-helmet at the bowl game in Mobile, a valued trophy in his home. And then, along came Andy Dalton, the Red Rifle. I wished that Sammy Baugh could have lived to see what was transpiring upon the 100 yards of turf where he had worked his magic over 70 years before.

Long ago, my fortunes led me to Colorado, but I kept in touch with a fraternity brother who had a bucket list. At the top was to see the Frogs play in a BCS game, should they ever get into that rarified air. We drove from Colorado to the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. On the road trip, we discussed our Frog heroes and agreed that Swink and Tomlinson were the most exciting TCU players we had seen at our alma mater. My friend passed away shortly thereafter, losing the opportunity to see the glory of next season’s undefeated team, culminating with the Rose Bowl victory. I would like to believe he had the best view.

I still visit Fort Worth and follow the Frogs whenever possible. While stepping through the falling leaves across the quad and marveling over the sweeping upgrades across campus, I can easily slip back to the days of the TCU corner drug store and movie theater on University Drive. Both the old and new fill me with pride. The camaraderie of sitting in the stands and being apart of the student body — a royal purple family with one heartbeat — is a treasure that will never fade.

Now, we have Trevone Boykin, which brings to mind O’Brien and his storied Heisman Trophy. So, while the Fightin’ Frogs resurgence has restored the program to its well-deserved place among college football’s royalty, I remain one humble member of the purple legion that stretches across the decades. For me, it all started with those roars from Amon G. Carter as The Rusk Rambler, a decorated Vietnam veteran, a fine doctor and a true legend, cut and swiveled his way up and down my field of dreams.

With Swink joining so many immortals, let us be respectful and not forget that bygone era even as TCU’s latest crop of athletes and fine coaches seek greater glories while the football world learns once again to “Fear the Frog.”

Happy trails.

Your comments are welcome


  1. Thanks Troy for a great recollection of the great Jim Swink. Why in the world has TCU not retired his #23 jersey?

  2. Great read, Troy! Thanks for writing it.

  3. What a great story. My brother made a scrapbook of Jim Swink articles when we were kids. He was idolized by many.
    So proud to be a frog and glad to bleed purple!!!

  4. Reading a year later, great piece to read, and likewise, at 76 yr old, I still remember Swinks running the ball, was fortunate to get to know Swink in 1964 in Tyler, Texas. He certainly lived up to being a kids hero. Not only should his number be retired, but a statue of him and Baugh should be there with Meyers, Obrian, and Patterson…..

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