‘Red’ Swanson had a knack for finding gold-star prospects

By Marty Mule

RedSwanson had a Midas Touch. He could find gold where other athletic prospectors were going bust.

Some of the most glittering names in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame would be unknown now if Swanson hadn’t been on the Pelican State sports scene in various capacities through the decades. As a relentless recruiter in the 1930s and ’40s, and even later when he was no longer in the game, Swanson could find ’em, even those whose potential hadn’t yet surfaced; and as a coach he could develop them.

Saturday night, June 25, in Natchitoches, Swanson’s impact on state sports history will be forever immortalized with enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
It’s hard to calculate the impact Arthur Leonard Swanson had on the fortunes of LSU athletics after he arrived as a versatile lineman/back from Quitman in rural Jackson Parish in 1922. He played with distinction in that period, including in the first game in Tiger Stadium. From 1931-37, he coached Southeastern Louisiana to a 41-17-4 record, a .694 percentage that is still best in Lions’ history. Later Swanson coached some of LSU’s best players before, during and after World War II, served on the school’s Board of Supervisors; and, what he should always be remembered for, his uncanny gift for spotting the potential in some seemingly average players who would seemingly be transformed into mega-stars.

It was Swanson, who died in 1987, who discovered:

* “Baby Jack” Torrance, who played for him at Oak Grove High School. Swanson delivered him to LSU where Torrance would became a world-record holder and Olympic champion shot-putter as well as a lineman on the Tigers’ early ’30s powerhouses.

* Joe Adcock the baseball player. It was Swanson, then LSU’s basketball and SEC-winning baseball coach, who talked the rangy basketball forward into trying out for a sport he had never played before. Adcock would become a power-hitting All-Star first baseman in the major leagues. There was only one problem. Adcock would later say: “I had never even played high school baseball. Heck, I didn’t even have a glove.”

* Jerry Stovall, a skinny halfback/safety who attracted little interest as a prep player in West Monroe. It was Swanson who first saw the possibilities of the skinny prospect, and, as a member of the LSU board, recruited him, then pressured the reluctant head coach to sign Stovall, now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Editor’s note – This is one in a series profiling the 11 members of the Class of 2016 being enshrined Saturday, June 25 in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Competitive ballot inductees are P.J. Brown, Jim Hightower, Rick Jones, “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher, Janice Joseph-Richard, Ben Sheets, Arthur “Red” Swanson, and Anthony Thomas. Contributor inductees are Dr. Julian Bailes, Jim Hawthorne and Bob Tompkins. A schedule of events from June 23-25, along with online sales for tickets and golf entries, is available at LaSportsHall.com, with information also available by calling 318-238-4255.