MAY 20, 2009 – COVINGTON
How can you begin to put into words what Doug Swartz has meant to the Covington community in the 52 years of his life? It’s impossible to do him justice because of all the lives he has touched over the years.
But it would be a great injustice to this great man if one didn’t try.
Doug Swartz, who passed away Friday, May 15th at age 52 due to sudden heart failure, is a Covington legend through his playing days, an icon due to his 22-year coaching career, and most of all, a great human being. This was evident by how many kids he impacted through his teaching and coaching career at Covington High School.
Swartz was a 1975 graduate from Covington, where he played football, basketball and baseball. He was most noted for his football prowess as he was the only player in Buccaneer history to be named all-state on both offense and defense in the same season – and he accomplished that at a time where there were three divisions, not six.
He was also a key figure on the greatest team in Covington history – the 1973 state championship team. Doug starred on the offensive and defensive lines on a team that recorded a school record eight shutouts and allowed just 24 points all season – a record that will likely never be broken.
Many people have treasured stories of “Big Doug” on the football field, but most people have described him as a gentle giant off the field and a terror on the field – a player that took no prisoners in the trenches.
“I can remember a friend of mine telling me about how great that Covington team (1973) was,” said Ben Wolfe, a long-time friend of Doug. “I lived in Troy at the time and I was told that Covington was every bit as good, if not better than Troy, who was in the big school division and had several DI college prospects. I came to watch Covington more than once and I’ll tell you, those boys would have given Troy everything they could handle and then some. I’ll also tell you that Doug Swartz was the best of the bunch, in my opinion.”
Swartz continued to play football at Capital University and then began a teaching and coaching career at Bethel High School in 1980.
After six years at Bethel, two of which he was the head coach, Swartz came home to his roots at Covington High School in 1987.
During the past 22 years Swartz has been a mainstay in the classroom as a Social Studies teacher and on the football field as an assistant coach.
Over that time period he has touched the lives of hundreds of kids who sat in his classroom and those who walked out onto the practice field each fall. And never did one hear a negative word from anybody regarding the man everyone labeled as a gentle giant. He receive the respect of his students and his players because of the respect he gave them on a daily basis.
“Everybody loved him,” said former player Logan Brown, a 2006 graduate and sophomore wrester at Purdue University. “He is one of the guys who made me what I am today. I loved playing for him because he knew so much about the game and made me a better football player and a better person.”
Others echoed Brown’s remarks.
“Coach Swartz was the best,” said Tyler Kanet, who also graduate in 2006 and has developed a strong bond with Swartz, even after graduation. “I never saw him get mad or yell at anybody. You always wanted to play hard for him because you didn’t want to let him down.”
And the loss of Swartz hit his players hard.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” said former Buccaneer Jordan Shafer, who also played at Morehead State University. “He meant so much to so many people. I’m at a loss for words.”
Evidence of Swartz’ impact on the kids and the community was shown Tuesday and Wednesday by the long lines at his viewing and the attendance at Smith Field for his funeral service.
At his viewing the line went through the Covington gym, down the hallway, through the commons and all the way through the locker bay and out the entrance to the building. This was at 4:00pm when the doors finally opened and the wait was over an hour.
At the funeral service, those in attendance wore primarily Covington colors in honor of Doug, including the immediate family who was seated on the field. The current Buccaneer team wore their game jerseys and were also seated on the field, while former players dressed in their jerseys as well. Also, many of Doug’s former teammates dressed in their game jerseys, while the entire junior high team sat together in their jerseys.
All the while, each of the five speakers shared stories about Doug and how he has affected their lives and the lives of those around them.
To top it off, Smith Field was painted by members of the Bucc Boosters as if it were game day – the favorite day of Doug Swartz. It also had a the words “COACH SWARTZ” painted on the home sideline to honor a man who earned such great respect.
“What a great tribute to this great man,” said a teary-eyed Ben Wolfe, a long-time field crew chief and close friend of Coach Swartz. “He deserves every bit of this. He is a special human being and one heck of a great friend. We’re going to miss him dearly.”
Another tribute to Swartz was the fact that over thirty of his former and current players came out to help prepare the field with the Bucc Boosters – a preparation that took three days to complete.
“Look at the help we had out here with the field,” Wolfe continued. “This is what Coach Swartz means to these kids. For them to come out here and help out like this just shows how much these kids love that man.”
The entire tribute to Doug Swartz also proves why the small town of Covington is unique – a town “Big Doug” loved so dearly.
And Covington gave “Big Doug” a tribute he deserved.
Because words can’t do him justice – not this great man.