06/11/18 — PREP FOOTBALL: Rebels' Swinson, Martin selected for East-West All-Star game

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PREP FOOTBALL: Rebels' Swinson, Martin selected for East-West All-Star game

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 11, 2018 5:51 AM



RALEIGH -- Soaked to the skin from a bone-chilling December rain, North Duplin lineman Justin Swinson shucked his shoulder pads one final time.

A stellar senior campaign had come to a disappointing close after a 21-13 loss to Cherokee in the state 1-A title game.

"At the end, I was happy to put down my pads and just look back with happiness on the great season we had despite the loss," Swinson said.

Little did Swinson know he wasn't done.

Neither was head coach Hugh Martin.

They'll spend a few more days together in mid-July as members of the East All-Star football team. It's the first time since 1994 that either an athlete or a coach from the tiny rural school has been chosen for the annual fete in Greensboro.

"Once I received another chance, it was that more exciting," Swinson said. "I mean, who wouldn't kill for another chance to put the pads back on?"

One of just eight athletes to achieve "Iron Rebel" status in the weight room, Swinson is the fourth ND football player to ever receive an East-West invitation.. He joins an elite group -- Larry Morrisey (1974), Ronnie Byrd (1974) and Dan Best (1994).

Martin is the third gridiron coach in program history to earn the accolade. He joins Richard Kaleel (1974) and Ken Avent Sr. (1978).

"I have a lot of fond memories of them coaching and mentoring me," Martin said. "It's a tremendous honor. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to go do this. I'm looking forward to it."

Swinson anchored a line that blocked for a record-setting offense this past fall.

The Rebels tied the single-season mark for wins (14) and established offensive standards in total carries (728), total rushing yards (4.739), rushing touchdowns (63), total offensive yards (4,897) and total points (481).

On the defensive side, Swinson filed 80 tackles including six stops behind the line of scrimmage.

The two-way starter drew nods for the all-Carolina 1-A Conference and NCPreps.com All-State 1-A teams.

"Oh gracious!" Martin said when asked to describe Swinson, an academically-driven student-athlete who will attend UNC Wilmington this fall.

Martin didn't need long to compose his thoughts.

"[A] great work ethic in the weight room. [A] great work ethic in the classroom," Martin said. "He has an intrinsic motivation for doing things right and doing them well...something that he has brought to our program.

"I can't say enough about the kind of young man that he is to have the chance to do this on a bigger stage. I'm looking forward to seeing him get up there and show what he can do."

Swinson credits his success to Martin.

Not only does he regard the ND alum as a coach, he also thinks of him as a father figure. Martin stresses academics first.

"He's taught me how to be a better man," Swinson said. "He's taught me to lead my life with my head held high and to be the best I can be. That's going to stay with me.

"To get one more game with coach is icing on the cake."