Corey J. Swinson, the Bay Shore native who played in the NFL but whose greatest pleasure was mentoring youth, was celebrated Sunday at a scholarship fundraiser in his name.
More than 200 people crowded the Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore to raise money for the Corey J. Swinson Legacy Scholarship Award on what would have been his 44th birthday -- now dubbed "Corey Swinson Day." Organizers say they hope to present two scholarships at an upcoming Bay Shore school district awards ceremony.
"What he gave to us was inspiration," said Patty Poulin, Swinson's friend since middle school, who helped organize the fundraiser. "What I got from Corey: Leave people better than you found them."
Swinson, the longtime security director for the Bay Shore school district, died in September of natural causes. After a 10-year stint in Bay Shore, he held the same post in Copiague. He also coached youth football.
Beyond his official titles, family and friends said, Swinson encouraged and motivated students, doling out advice and using his myriad connections to help them access enrichment activities.
Charlie Flood, president of the Bay Shore Athletic Sponsors, said Swinson had a natural ability to connect with students.
"The kids just flocked to him," said Flood. "He was like a magnet for children. They would confide in him."
Swinson was chosen in the seventh round of the 1995 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins and spent that season with the St. Louis Rams. After his NFL career, he returned home.
One of Corey's brothers, Mark Swinson of Central Islip, said "one of the biggest things my brother wanted was for kids to have better things than we had growing up."
Inside the bar, a loop of photos of a smiling Swinson were displayed on flat-screen TVs. The cover band Rich Mahogany Band, affectionately known as the "Bay Shore Beatles" played.
A pair of auctions benefiting the scholarship featured gift baskets from local businesses and sports memorabilia, including an autographed football by Giants Jonathan Beason and Antrel Rolle.
Paula Swinson-Cook said her brother used his contacts from the NFL and beyond to broaden the horizons of young people.
"My brother -- he was like the best networker in the world," said Swinson-Cook. "He would always say, 'It's the kids. It's all about the kids.' "