Pat Swilling and the connection between football and politics



Without a doubt, there’s a huge connection between football and politics. Numerous former football players have gone on to careers as politicians. On a national level, every football player turned career politician has been a Republican. Names like Steve Largent, Jack Kemp, J.J. Watts, Lynn Swann among others come to mind. There’s a lot work in that trend; especially the Social Darwinism of football as an ethos replicating itself in the basic weltanschauung of the GOP.

But that’s another topic for another time. I could write 5,000 words on that topic before even exhaling. In 2006, Heath Shuler (despite his obvious social conservatism) became the first football player turned Democrat to win a national office. Although John Edwards, cut from the team at Clemson, came close.

There have been some successful ex-football players to win office as Dems at the state and local level, including former New Orleans Saints All-Pro Pat Swilling, who served in the Louisiana state legislature.

I had an exclusive with Swilling on the day of his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

By Paul M. Banks


“I’m not surprised that athletes run on the Republican ticket. You look at Oklahoma’s J.J. Watts, I think there’s room, there’s an easier route to run as a Republican for an athlete, but I think to identify with Republicanism as an athlete, it’s kind of difficult for most of us,” Swilling told me.

And that’s very true, because there are many exceedingly backward positions on issues of race and class within the GOP. And these stances aren’t exactly in line with the interests of many athletes.

“I’ve had conversation with people about running on the Republican ticket because the Republicans are always looking for strong leaders and people to run on their ticket, but I’m a Democrat through and through. Mom and Dad were. I am, I always will be, I can never run on that ticket, never.

I know people say don’t ever say never, but it’s not me. I believe in the Democrats and what we’re trying to do in moving this country forward,” he continued.

Today Swilling, a five time Pro-Bowler and the 1991 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is a real estate developer in New Orleans, but he has the itch to one day run again.

“I’ve been working on trying to bring back retail development in our city, that’s what I do,” Swilling said.

“There’s going to be an opportunity to get back into politics one of these days. I still have the aspirations, I still like to be involved, I feel have something to bring to the table as a leader that can help our city. I’ve done it once, I definitely think at some point in time I want to be involved in the political system again, because it’s needed in Louisiana,” he continued.

Charisma is a key component for success in politics, and Swilling certainly has that. Especially in 1992 when he, and his fellow Saints Linebackers Rickey Jackson, Vaughn Johnson, and Sam Mills combined to form the “Dome Patrol,” one of the most feared position groups in NFL history. All four made the Pro Bowl and led the league in quarterback sacks.


Swilling next told me how the “Dome Patrol’s” origins…

“Jim Mora Jr., Coach Mora’s son, had a relationship with the Stoccos brothers, which is a poster company, and Sam Mills got us all together and we decided we’re going to shoot this poster of our linebacker crew, and we pondered a lot of different stuff, bayou this, bayou that and then I think Mora Jr said let’s do something about the dome, protecting the dome, the dome patrol, we looked around and said let’s do it. We shot it in fatigues and it just grew overnight, and I was at a place the other night and it said the “dome patrol drink.” It’s all over New Orleans, and we are as beloved today as when we played.”

And that charisma and brand name awareness persists today.

“We want to get some more made, but I tell ya we could sell them in Louisiana all day long, because of the Saints’ popularity. We did an autograph session the other day and people asked how can we buy this poster? So we’re going to figure out how to ressurect the poster. Stoccos is out of business and they have the rights so we’re working on it,” Swilling said.

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru


  1. Check out the NFL on Minute to Win IT tonight on NBC at 8pm! This show is the only thing that gets me by before the season starts! Pierre Thomas and Visanthe Shiancoe are on it to win money for their charities !

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