Being inducted to a hall of fame is familiar territory for Pat Swilling.
Already a member of the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame, the state of Georgia Hall of Fame and the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame, the Toccoa native and Stephens County High graduate will be inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in December. But prior to that, Swilling will be one of the five inductees in this year’s Northeast Georgia Hall of Fame.
"It’s wonderful," Swilling said of the honor. "To be recognized by the Northeast Georgia people says a lot. I grew up there and you always dream of being in a Hall of Fame."
Although he no longer resides in Georgia, his mother and some family members still live in Toccoa, and Swilling says he visits them at least twice a year. He hopes one visit this year will be at this summer’s induction ceremony on the campus of Brenau University.
"Me and my family are very excited about the honor," said Swilling, who is trying to free up his schedule to attend the ceremony. "I had so much fun at Stephens County. That’s where I started, that’s where I grew up. It’s a great place to be a part of athletics."
Swilling’s induction to the Northeast Georgia Hall of Fame comes as no surprise to anyone who followed his career.
After a standout career at Stephens County High, Swilling went on to play four seasons at Georgia Tech, where he led the "Black Watch" defense of the Yellow Jackets from 1982-85. The former All-American still holds the single-season sack record of 15 and single-game sack record of seven, which he recorded against North Carolina State in 1985.
His outstanding college career led him to be named to this year’s class of inductees of the College Football Hall of Fame.
"No one thought the next guy from Georgia Tech to go into the College Football Hall of Fame would be Pat Swilling from Toccoa," Swilling said. "I don’t think the magnitude of it will hit me until I’m in New York being inducted."
Upon graduating from Georgia Tech, Swilling was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the third round (60th overall) of the 1986 draft. During his seven-year career with the Saints, Swilling was named to the Pro Bowl five times (from ’89-’93) and was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1989.
In 1991 when he recorded a career-high 17 sacks, and he finished his career with 107.5 sacks and 468 tackles.
Known for his durability — he only missed seven games in his 12-year career — Swilling signed with the Detroit Lions in 1993 and after a brief two-year stint, he finished his career with the Oakland Raiders, retiring in 1998 at the age of 34.
Despite playing with two other NFL franchises, Swilling will always remember his time with the Saints.
"There’s not a game that meant more than playing with that group of guys year in and year out," Swilling said.
The Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is located in the Northeast Georgia History Center on the campus of Brenau University.
On Aug. 29, University of Georgia athletics director Damon Evans will be at the Georgia Mountain Center in downtown Gainesville to honor 15 northeast Geogia athletes and one incredibly successful team. There will be five new inductees into the Hall of Fame and 10 additional athletes will be honored as the first Elite 10, some of Northeast Georgia’s best high school athletes of the last 10 years.
The induction ceremony will be open to the public, and tickets and sponsorships are available. For more information, call Glen Kyle at the Northeast Georgia History Center, 770-297-5900.