Where Are You Now? Brian Swisher
Editors Note: Where Have You Gone is a ten-week series featuring notable local athletes of yesteryear. We take a look back at their playing days, as well as a glimpse of where they landed after their playing days ended.
Local sports stars come and local sports stars go. But every once in awhile, a player leaves a lasting impression on the community where he/she played. Brian Swisher is that guy.
Brian grew up in Friendly, WV, on Friendly Hill which is a community in itself. He was one of 3 siblings born to Frank and the late Beverly Swisher. Brian graduated in 1982 from Sistersville High School where he excelled in both football and track. He was recruited by several Division 1 colleges and chose Marshall University where he played football for four years and also ran track.
While in high school Brian earned many individual honors as well as being a member on two Sistersville High School state championship football teams and finished with an overall record of 43-5. He was the first player at Sistersville High to be named all state 3 years in a row. Following his example and not to be outdone, his younger brother, Jeff, also earned all state honors for three consecutive years. His other brother, Scott, earned all state honors his senior year in high school. Obviously, the Swisher boys were a powerhouse in their day.
Among Brian’s many accomplishments was being named the1981 Hunt Award winner as the best lineman in the state as a split end. The Hunt award is an honor given annually to the state’s top high school lineman by the West Virginia Sports Writer’s Association. Brian scored 23 total touchdowns that season, 15 receiving TDs and eight punt and kickoff returns. Those 15 receiving TDs set a regular season record for touchdown catches at that time. Brian’s senior year, he was the winner of the Hertz Award, an honor given to one athlete from every state represented in New York City, presented by the Hertz Corporation. Brian continued to gain accolades as a 3 time first team All OVAC, LKC and First Team All Valley. Brian is, also, a distinguished member of the OVAC Hall of Fame.
Two times he was a finalist for State of West Virginia Athlete of the year. Once as senior at Sistersville High School, he finished second to Oliver Luck from WVU, and again in 1987, second to Marshall University team mate, Carl Fodor.
In track, Brian was the 1980 State of WV 100 Meter Champion as a sophomore at Sistersville. His state record time stood for 20 years and was the first state win by a track and field athlete from Sistersville High School since 1915. Also in the same year, he and teammates Tom Archer, Richard Wilson and Joe Heintzman became the West Virginia 4×100 Meter Relay State Champions claiming a new record setting time.
While at Marshall University, Brian played football as a starter for the Thundering Herd all four years. He came into fall camp his freshman year in the 7th string position at receiver. The lessons he learned while playing football for the Sistersville Tigers of perseverance and mental toughness gave him a jump start on the players in front of him. Brian shared his thinking, “Some guys don’t want to do what it takes, they just want to show up and hope. At Sistersville, you had to bring it every day.”
When Brian graduated from college, he was in the top 10 in receiving yards and touchdowns in Marshall’s statistical history. Over the years, those numbers have been surpassed by teams that threw the ball much more than when Brian played. Brian also ran track at Marshall and still holds a record set in the 100 meter dash. He graduated from Marshall in 1987 with a dual degree in Marketing and Finance.
Brian has been playing sports pretty much as long as he can remember. On Friendly Hill, he, his brothers and their friends played something almost every day. There was always a way to get a game in. “Because my parents wouldn’t let me play organized football when I was younger, I played with the older kids on the hill. You learn a lot playing with guys five to six years older than you are,” confided Brian. Soon he began organized sports. Baseball started for Brian in 2nd grade and basketball in third. He played his first organized football in 8th grade and began running track the following year. He played summer league basketball every year in high school and anytime he came home from college during the summers. “The park at Sistersville was always a great place to get a game in. There never seemed to be a shortage of people that wanted to get a game on,” Brian fondly recalled.
Growing up Brian always looked up to his dad, Frank. He was the most influential person in Brian’s life. From throwing ball in the backyard or running pass patterns until dark, his father always found time to get outside with Brian and his brothers. When Brian was young his father played in softball and basketball leagues. Brian has wonderful memories of attending many games traveling up and down the Ohio Valley and across the state of West Virginia to watch his dad’s teams compete. It was a great way to spend time with his father and also learn how to play the right way. Brian shared some of the insight he gained as a young boy, “My dad was also my first coach. He did a great job of helping all of us focus on everybody on the team and not just a few players. There’s a natural tendency to highlight your own kid when coaching…Never once did my dad do that.” Those lessons in team building he learned early in life, and they have stayed with him through his adult years.
Frank Swisher, the father of Brian, Jeff and Scott, had this to say about his sons, “I am very proud of all my sons for all they accomplished in high school and following high school. They all have become terrific young men and provided both Beverly and myself with many wonderful memories. Even though Beverly has passed away, she is still looking down with a tremendous amount of pride.” Sometimes it amazes me how much a parent’s pride placed in their kids can leave a lasting imprint. It’s a wonderful way to show love that validates their kid’s feelings of self worth.
In high school, Brian feels he was blessed to have the greatest football coach in West Virginia, Coach Lou Nocida. Brian explained while playing for Coach Nocida, he was drawn to the leadership that upperclassman C.R. Howdyshell provided to the younger guys. “C.R. kind of took me under his wing and helped mentor me, even when he had already graduated. We had our first winning season in several years during his freshman year, coming off a year that SHS finished 1-9,” Brian explained. “That team needed what C.R. brought to the locker room and to the field.” Brian believes it was C.R. that provided the example for the rest of the team and set the stage for the standard every team member needed to emulate to build the incredible success SHS experienced during the 80’s. Those teams won a lot and had tremendous individual successes, but never at the expense of being humble first. Whatever success Brian had in sports and life, he credits to coaching and upbringing. “Any success I have had in sports can be attributed solely to the team I played on. It was never me, but us that did it,” Brian relayed.
If there is one guy Brian really admires more than anyone, it is his big brother Scott. Scott didn’t get the same amount of accolades that Jeff and Brian received, but Brian feels he was by far the best athlete in the family. He also shared Scott was a tremendous football player and basketball player. “I once saw him high jump 6 feet while taking only two steps when he was a freshman in high school. There really wasn’t anything Scott couldn’t do,” recalled Brian about his big brother.
Brian feels his teammates at Sistersville and Marshall were some of the best people he has ever met. Brian has stayed in contact with many of them and is very proud of the success his old friends enjoy today. He explains, “I really believe I am in a large part a function of those interactions and experiences.” C.R and Brian both live in Columbus today and still get together almost weekly. Over the years, they have worked together on two occasions. The two men feel blessed to have been able to see each other’s children grow up, and in Brian’s case, watch his children’s kids grow, too. Brian stays in touch with Greg Rustemeyer, also a Sistersville athlete, and sees him frequently. Greg is a successful money manager in central Ohio and has been a great source of help to Brian and his family. “Nobody takes better care of Sistersville people, than other Sistersville people,” Brian added.
Brain and his wife Gina, have been married for 12 years and live in Columbus, Ohio. They have four children, Chase (wife Lisa), Garrett, Jeymi, Olivia and Sabrina. Olivia and Sabrina are both sophomores at the University of Kentucky. For the last two years, Brian has worked for Splunk, Inc., a cyber security company. Prior to his employment with Splunk, Brian was with Cisco Systems serving as a Region Director of Sales supporting teams from Ohio to Hawaii.
At the end of the day, you can’t help but cheer for a guy like Brian Swisher. He was a very successful high school athlete that helped bring state honors home to Sistersville. Anyone living here at the time quickly became wrapped up in the excitement that was generated by Brian and his Tiger teammates. Brian continued his athletic career at Marshall University winning honors and graduating with a dual degree. And maybe the greatest accolade in his favor, he is a successful business man and family man. As I said in the beginning, sports stars come and sports stars go, but every once in awhile one of those stars leaves a lasting legacy that makes us all feel proud to have been a Tiger.