, Muskogee, OK


June 6, 2013

Different song: Football took priority early for one Swon

He was a pee-wee football guy with big dreams.

That’s why, Kelly Swon said, his son Colton looked up at a talent recruiter offering he and his brother Zach a recording contract and said no thanks.

“He was 11 or 12 and he looked the president of this label straight in the eye and said he had a football career to focus on right now,’” Kelly recalled this week.

One look at Colton’s Facebook page presents the self-assurance of a divine plan for his life. As he’s learned, the man upstairs had other ideas, as evidenced by Colton and Zach having reached the semifinals on NBC’s “The Voice.”

Zach, who grew up in school at Oktaha, was closer to heaven’s radar.

“I was a band nerd,” he said during a phone interview with the Phoenix on Wednesday.

Colton wanted to play football so bad that he transferred from Oktaha to Hilldale, where he was part of a playoff squad every year he was there, graduating in 2007.  But no bigger than the 5-foot-8, 140-pound frame of his senior season, team success came with its thorns in the flesh.

“The one glaring memory I have of Colton was he was the one always in the training room, getting taped for one thing or another,” said Ryan Heppel, who played linebacker while Colton was a cornerback.

Kelly said he had “a half-dozen surgeries of some kind” during his playing days. Heppel didn’t know how many but wasn’t surprised at that number.

“There was no  50 percent from him. Injured or not, he went all out and he took more than his share of shots,” he said.

Colton remembers one he took without seeking it.

“One thing I’ll never forget is I was doing a punt return, and I think it was Poteau, but I called for a fair catch and they went ahead and hit me,” he said in Wednesday’s interview. “And I seriously bit off half my tongue. It’s OK now, but I remember it quite well.”

Exaggerations aside, that tongue is all there now so either way, someone up there was protecting the real value in the kid, a seed that has been a part of him for more than a while.

“The first time I knew he could sing, it seemed like it was the third grade or so,” said Lance Rolland, his secondary mate at free safety. “He tucked his arms into his shirt, got down with his knees in his shoes and sang “Little Bitty” by Alan Jackson. Then, I think it was the fifth grade, we had a talent show and he sang ‘When a Man Loves A Woman’” he said, referring to Michael Bolton’s hit song.

“I’d say he was pretty good even then.”

Eventually, that purpose became clear to him, meaning that in the Supreme Football Fan’s scheme of things, bell-ringing hits may have purposes beyond the sidelines.

Colton’s found the zone.

Every week on that Facebook page, there’s a scripture reference.

It’s not fake, even if the game has changed.

“He always had this way about him, always playing with a smile on his face and always finding a way of encouraging his teammates,” Heppel said. “He’s one of the strongest faith men I’ve ever known.”

He just had to understand that football dead-ended at the training table.

For the healed tongue and those pipes, the road is pretty clear.

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