Memory of the scene remains sharp. It was several years ago, during a brutally hot August day on a dusty practice field. The hulking figure of Chris Schwamborn, the biggest player on the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck high school football team, was struggling through wind sprints, not his strong suit. Schwamborn lagged far behind his teammates and wasn’t close to sprinting, but he never gave up, pushing one leg in front of the other until he finally completed the drill. His teammates applauded the effort.
It was an inspiring sight.
If there is an inspirational tale to be told on the Porters, it is Schwamborn’s story. The lineman has gone from a player who could barely run around the field as a freshman to a contributor on both sides of the ball as a senior. It has been quite a transformation.
“He’s a new man from where he was as a freshman,” coach Jack Martilotta said. “Chris is the reason [why] you coach. You took a kid as a freshman who kind of struggled and he’s turned himself into a force, an athlete. He is a very good football player. He’s a very good wrestler, and most importantly, he’s a very good student and a really great young man. He’s a real role model.”
The 5-foot-11, 300-pound Schwamborn, a regular starter since he was a sophomore, plays guard and defensive tackle. Ever since that memorable day, his football career has been on a steady incline. Every year, he said, he has improved a little more.
For a big player, Schwamborn is remarkably agile and athletic. He also wrestles and holds a black belt in judo.
“I’ve been doing better every year, but again, how my mind works is I can always do better,” he said after Tuesday morning’s practice. “If I’m going to compare how I was when I first came here to now, it’s ridiculous how much better I’ve become. I had no idea I’d ever become this athletic.”
Last season Schwamborn sprained a knee about midway through the season. It slowed him down, but didn’t stop him from playing out the season. He was involved in nine tackles last year.
Martilotta said Schwamborn came into preseason practice in better shape this week. Along with the footwork and strength, Schwamborn, who said he feels physically better than he ever has before, brings desire, which is something that cannot be measured by a stopwatch.
“You just never see him give up, no matter what,” said senior Liam McShane, who plays guard and defensive end. McShane said Schwamborn “gives it 110 percent every single time you see him out here on the field. If every guy on the team put as much effort as Chris does, we’d be going 8 and 0.”
Martilotta said: “He’s got a ton of heart. There’s no quit in that kid.”
So, where does that drive come from?
“I guess it’s how I was raised or whatever, but I never want to give up and do whatever I can because I don’t want to feel like I’m getting treated differently,” Schwamborn said. “I want to go as much as anyone else can go and do as much as anyone else can do.”
Schwamborn said wrestling made a big difference in him. “Wrestling turned my life around,” he said.
Others have taken notice, and Schwamborn has heard complimentary words from coaches, parents and friends. “I really appreciate all the positive energy everyone has given to me, and it helps me,” he said.
Fast forward from several years ago to Tuesday morning, and there was Schwamborn on that same practice field. In the final sprint of the day, he let it all hang out and pushed himself to be the third one to the finish line. Some things don’t change.
Photo caption: Chris Schwamborn has evolved into an agile, athletic lineman for Greenport/Southold/Mattituck. (Credit: Garret Meade)