Interview by Abernathy Cochran intern and Gainesville High senior Grady Vardeman
Meet Bob Swosowski! Bob is originally from Florida and played football at Florida State University. He is the owner of many local McDonald’s restaurants. Recently, he shared his wonderful life stories with us along with some of his life advice.
Question: Where did you grow up?
Answer: “I was born up north, but I grew up in Florida and that’s what I call my real home.”
Q: How many children do you have?
A: “I have three, they all are in their mid 40s.”
Q: Did you play football in college?
A: “Yes, I was very fortunate, when I was offered a football scholarship to play at Florida State University. I played center and I would say I was extra blessed because in high school we were a losing team and I wasn’t playing much till my senior year. It wasn’t until halfway through the season I began to play more. That’s when I started getting looked at by FSU and Syracuse. I played so well that I made the All State team and was invited to play in the All Star game for Florida. I chose to go to Florida State because it was closer to home and I couldn’t have gone to college without the scholarship which made the scholarship so special to me.”
Q: How was your college football experience?
A: “I had a great experience in college experience, I lettered all four years and enjoyed the heck out of it. Many stories came from it such as this one where we were sitting in the locker room after practice and one of my players was smoking a cigarette and I asked why he wasn’t scared of getting caught by coach. He replied with, ‘I’ve been to war I’m not afraid of the coach.’”
Q: How did you get the nickname “Swoz?”
A: “My freshman year they had offered 140 spots on the football team when they actually only had 40. So, their job was to run off those who didn’t want to play and the ones that did. I had my name taped to the front of my helmet and the coach said he couldn’t pronounce my name so he said we would call me Swoz. From that day on all the coaches, players, my professors and the students all called me Swoz. The coach who started this was Lee Corso.”
Q: What inspired you or led you to your current career?
A: “My late partner and I were junior executives in Atlanta, we had good jobs that paid well, we got along very well and realized we didn’t like the idea of working for someone else. We decided that was what we were going to do something about it, so we applied to McDonald’s. We struggled to get in because they wanted older people with more money than we had, but they took a chance on us and we got it. We opened our first restaurant in 1973.”
Q: How long have you lived or worked in Hall County?
A: “I’ve been living in Gainesville since 1976 and working the same amount.”
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be? And why?
A: “I’ve been all around the world except South America and Africa. My favorite of all time is China and I go to Europe a lot. I really like how different China is and that’s where I would want to go.”
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: “I’m not sure if this counts, but I made a promise to myself when I was younger if I ever became successful I would help others. So, my wife now of 18 years and I provide scholarships to students. The requirements for it are to be of a single parent, a B or better average (3.5 GPA), and have a goal set for themselves to succeed.”
Q: What is your favorite thing about Hall County?
A: “The lake is nice, the schools are nice, even outside the city is nice, but it’s the people that make it. It’s not just the people, it’s what the people do that make the community just a little bit better.”
Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
A: “Before I played football I played the piano, violin, and the organ.”
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A: “I wish I could say I came up with this, but it comes from Winston Churchill and it says ‘success is not final, failure is not fatal it is the courage to continue that counts.’”