NEW ORLEANS — Rarely will you find the Swilling boys far from one another.
Whether it’s on the football field, at school or traveling the country visiting prospective colleges, Bruce Jordan-Swilling and Tre’ Swilling seem to be glued at the hip.
It’s a unique bond — to say the least — but one that makes sense in more ways than one.
Football may link the Swilling boys, but it doesn’t define their relationship. In fact, it’s far from the most important thread between the unique New Orleans athletes.
“The ability for us to be two of the top kids in the state and the nation, and to be able to live in the same house, that makes us better,” said Swilling, the nation’s No. 35 cornerback in the Class of 2017.
“He makes me better,” added Jordan-Swilling, the No. 8 outside linebacker in the class. “If he sees me slipping, he’ll tell me I need to pick it up. And if I see him slipping, I tell him to pick it up. It’s a bond, just like a big, brotherly love with some friendly competition. Just having him around is exciting for me.”
Football may bind them, but not at home
Football has an undeniable presence at the Swillings’ household.
Football runs in their blood. Their father, Patrick Swilling, played linebacker at Georgia Tech before earning five Pro Bowl nods with the New Orleans Saints.
The boys’ older brother, Patrick Swilling Jr., was a guard for the Tulsa basketball team and had a chance to try out for the Saints during the 2015 training camp.
Bruce and Tre’ are next up as two of the most sought-after prospects, not only in Louisiana, but in the country.
Bruce, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound four-star athlete, is deciding between running back or linebacker in college; he’ll also choose from a host of national powers, including LSU, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Arkansas.
Tre’, a 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back, also boasts double-digit offers and is strongly linked to both LSU and ‘Bama, as well as Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Michigan.
Naturally, most hours of the day consist of football, whether it’s practice, training, coaching visits or dual FaceTimes with Nick Saban early after a Thursday practice.
But as soon as the tandem steps foot through their front door, football shifts to the backburner.
“Somebody might think that we go home and talk about football 24/7 because my dad played and my brother played, but at home it’s family time,” said Tre’.
“We watch TV, ‘Empire,’ regular TV shows and we only talk about football only when we’re trying to make a visit or about who came to school, but then it’s back to whatever our friends are doing or laughing at people on Twitter.”
In 1982, Patrick Swilling Sr. committed to Georgia Tech over UGA and Clemson. Thirty-four years later he’s getting a firsthand look at his sons go through the same exact process.
But at home, the no-football policies apply to recruiting, too.
Patrick Swilling Sr. is reserved to his role as Dad, not as a College Football Hall of Fame member, which has turned out to be invaluable to both Bruce and Tre’ as they go through the process.
“My dad was one of those blue-collar kids from Toccoa, Ga., in the middle of nowhere,” said Tre’. “He taught me that rankings, the media don’t matter, to pick a school who genuinely likes you and doesn’t want you because of your brother, but you, and keep your nose down and keep working, and only come up for air. Every day I think about what my dad taught me and has instilled in me, and because of it, the sky is the limit and I’ll keep pushing till I’m No. 1.
“Kids these days have mentors to help out with their decision, but my dad plays the outfield. He has insight on programs, whether they genuinely like you or this is how many people (at your position) they’re recruiting. When he was deciding, he chose Georgia Tech because of the depth they had on their roster and because the coaches liked him for him, and his mom told him he couldn’t go far from home. Maybe that’s why he gives us a little more leeway.”
While their football and recruiting interests may bare outstanding similarities, there’s no denying how vastly different the brothers’ personalities are.
For an athlete that plays even bigger than his frame, Bruce is as soft-spoken as they come, particularly among nationally sought-after recruits.
Tre’, on the other hand, provides the unique ability to make plays on the field and with his personality. He has the dynamic one-two punch of talent and charisma.
Despite their differences in persona, the Swilling brothers are near-inseparable. But they’re well aware of just how polarizing their contrast in character is.
“We’re two different people,” Bruce admitted. “Like sometimes I’ll just be mad at the world, and Tre’, he’ll just be happy. We’re way too different people. Yeah, it’s a big surprise, cause sometimes brothers fight. But we don’t ever fight. We don’t fight at all. It’s just a big bond.”
From a football sense, it’s not surprising that the Brother Martin High School (New Orleans) standouts act in opposite ways.
Coach Mark Bonis has known Tre’ and Bruce since the seventh and eighth grade, respectively, and despite seeing their growth in maturity each year, believes their individual personalities are fitting to their style of play on the field.
“I’m very old school and believe in quiet leadership, but I think Tre’s boisterous personality, his competitive personality fits because he’s a defensive player,” Bonis explained. “The best defenses are ones that can play with momentum and play with a personality and be resilient, and Tre’s personality is great for him as a defense player. Tre’s a leader on the defensive side of the ball. He goes a good job. I don’t want to hear anyone talking if they aren’t leading by example, and Tre’s done a good job.”
Tre’s outspoken nature is complemented by the tranquility of his brother.
Bruce, who is gearing up for his second season as Brother Martin’s starting running back, maintains the mentality of a workhorse back and the personality to match his position.
“He’s calm, cool, collective,” said Bonis. “That fits Bruce because of everything he’s doing. He’s got to play the next play, stay focused on what he does and get a read on every play because he’s in there for 60, 70 snaps. His personality fits well because of where he plays on the field.”
Despite their differences, the Swilling brothers are one of a kind. That remains true away from the game of football, too.
Whether it’s at home, basketball season or weekend activities, Tre’ is there for Bruce and Bruce is there for Tre’.
That’s what makes the brothers close and could eventually tie their futures together.
“At home, we joke around a lot,” said Bruce. “But you’ll never see us in the same room as each other. Once we’re home, we’ll chill upstairs in our rooms. But outside of school, if you see me then you’ll see him and vice versa. We’re never too far apart from each other. This summer, I’ll be in the stands cheering for him during basketball like any other fan should do. That’s our friendly bond.”
What lies ahead
The bond between Tre’ and Bruce goes much further than football.
Tre’ estimated that there’s usually only three or four hours per day that the two aren’t with each other.
“It’s a real big brotherly love,” he said. “It’s just a great bond.”
But the two Swilling boys have a greater reach than they realize.
Earlier this winter, their head coach accepted a position with Memphis as the football program’s director of player personnel.
Bonis was packing up his office and packing his car for Memphis when he received word from both Swillings.
Not only did the boys wish him luck, but it served as a reminder of Brother Martin’s potential for the 2016 season. With two of the premier athletes in Louisiana manning the defensive and offensive sides of the ball, the coach realized what exactly he was leaving behind by leaving this particular set of players.
“They were part of the reason,” Bonis admitted. “It was my family and also my family at Brother Martin, and that includes Bruce and Tre’. We have unfinished business here to take care of, and they had something to do with it. They were outwardly upset because it happened kind of quickly, and that whole stretch was some of the toughest decisions I had to make.
“But things happen for a reason. To hear from them, that was better than any paycheck.”
The Swilling brothers are products of a football family that emphasizes both of those words in their everyday lives.
Football and family both come first for Tre’ and Bruce, which has led to one of the lingering questions about their futures.
Last month, both New Orleans prospects released lists of their top schools. Inevitably, there was some overlap. Mainly, both LSU and Alabama made the cut. So did Florida, Florida State, UCLA and Georgia Tech, their father’s alma mater.
Tre’ and Bruce had originally planned on attending the same colleges, but have recently strayed away from those plans are open to entertaining other ideas — at least for the moment.
“If they wind up at the same school, that’s great,” Bonis said. “But for their sake, they have to pick the best school for themselves, individually, that allows them to prosper at their maximum levels. That’s got to be No. 1.”
Whether Tre’ and Bruce wind up playing for the same team or the same defense in 2017 remains to be seen.
But don’t expect that question to make a dent in their bond.
As the two elite New Orleans prospects continue to ride the momentum of their recruitments, the sanctity of having each other has proven to be more than just a reliable resource.
It’s been their motivation, their differing opinion and perhaps a path toward a certain program.
Most importantly, Bruce and Tre’ have been each other’s reality check throughout, which has kept this process both intriguing and manageable.
“It gives us sanity,” Tre’ laughed. “Having that family bond and not having to talk about football day. … Bruce and me, we can talk about football or basketball or something with any type of sport, or we can just talk about what happened today or school or the little things. That makes everything else more important.”
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.