The Fifth Avenue overpass across Sunrise Highway in Bay Shore was named Saturday in honor of Corey J. Swinson, a beloved local resident and former NFL player who died last September of heart failure.
"A bridge is an elevated platform, and when you were around him, you felt elevated," Swinson's childhood friend, Bilal Polson, 46, said after the dedication. "He was inspirational. There was an energy that he brought to the conversation and the environment that allowed him to mentor many kids who had problems with law enforcement."
Swinson, 43, also lauded by others as a mentor to youths in the community, was born and reared in Bay Shore and graduated in 1988 from Bay Shore High, where he was a standout basketball player and briefly played football.
He studied social work and played football at Hampton University in Virginia and was a defensive tackle, chosen in the seventh round of the 1995 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins. He spent that season with the St. Louis Rams.
Swinson returned to Bay Shore and was the school district's security director from 2002 to 2012. He later held that post in the Copiague district. He also coached youth football in the Bay Shore Little Conference Football League.
More than 100 relatives, friends, community members and others attended Saturday's ceremony.
The event, organized by Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), started at the flagpole outside the Fifth Avenue Elementary School. Afterward, attendees walked to the nearby overpass for the unveiling of the brown sign with white lettering that reads "Corey J. Swinson Memorial Bridge."
"This is a wonderful day for Bay Shore to honor one of the icons of our community," said state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore).
Swinson's mother, Carrie Bell Swinson, said her son was one of 10 children. She cried after the ceremony as she spoke about how he had died on her birthday. "My son was really a wonderful son," she said. "This is a wonderful day. Everyone who met my son fell in love with him."