It's the final Sweitzer's turn at the table for Hand football

MADISON — Growing up, Seth Sweitzer would listen to his family members share their high school football stories at Hand High School

He would sit in awe and soak it all in, listening to his heroes talk about their greatest moments knowing one day it would be his turn at the table.

The school's football program, in its 50th season, has had 11 other Sweitzers play. Almost all of them have contributed to 13 state championships. 

“Whenever we have Sweitzer kids come through, it’s very special,” Hand coach Erik Becker said. “Their family, they’re Hand football royalty, even though we love every kid the same and treat every kid the same.”

Seth's uncle, Rick Sweitzer, was on the first state championship team in 1976, along with his uncle Ken Sweitzer, who won a second state title in 1977. Ken was named the New Haven Register All-State Player of the Year after the 1977 season. 

His uncle, Dale Sweitzer, played in 1979. Gis father, Scott Sweitzer, played from 1980-1983. He reached four state title games and won the 1982 Class M-II state title, the same year he was also named to the New Haven Register All-State team. 

Both Ken and Scott Sweitzer went on to play at UConn. 

Seth Sweitzer has had five cousins -- Sean, Dale, Cory, Clay, Reid and two brothers, Scott and Shane -- play for the Tigers. 

“It gets pretty crazy at holiday parties because we’re just talking about football,” Seth Sweitzer said. “It’s great, it’s fun to be able to share the same experience with all of my family members.”

After playing as a sophomore, Seth Sweitzer is now getting his time to shine as a member of the Tigers. 

“(He’s one) of the most electric athletes I have ever been around, I feel like, in terms of his ability to make to plays,” Becker said. “Every time he touches the ball it’s electric. Something incredible happens.”

Through four games, Seth Sweitzer has 25 catches for 365 yards and five touchdowns. He has 41 catches and eight touchdowns in his career. On defense, he has three interceptions for the 2-2 Tigers. 

Sweitzer can’t remember the first time he went to a Hand football game. It's just always been a part of his life.

“I grew up in Hand sweatshirts and T-shirts and stuff,” he said. “Hand-me-downs too, but I just have always had Hand gear on me.”

Seth Sweitzer does remember when his dad was helping as a coach and his brothers were on varsity. 

“He was always at my hip when I was coaching youth or the freshman team,” Scott Sweitzer said. “He just loves being around football.”

The players on the team back then even allowed the youngest Sweitzer to participate in practice sometimes.

“They let me get into the pat and go drill,” Seth Sweitzer said. “I brought my little football, and they were throwing it to me. It meant so much to me.”

Having the name Sweitzer comes with expectations to not only be good, but to be exceptional. 

“One thing is they get compared to each other a lot, which is probably not the best thing,” Scott Sweitzer said. “I think there is probably pressure, but pressure is also a good motivator.”

That way of thinking is how Seth Sweitzer sees it himself.

“Pressure and all that I strive off of, I perform my best under pressure,” Seth Sweitzer said. 

When asked to compare all the Sweitzers and who was the best, former Hand head coach Steve Fillipone says Scott Sweitzer -- although he qualifies that by saying he doesn't count both Rick and Ken Sweitzer since he didn’t coach them.

Filippone thinks Seth has the potential to be better than his dad.

“If Seth keeps doing what he is doing, he will go by him,” said Filippone who led the program for 27 years and won seven state titles — and is now an assistant coach.

Scott Sweitzer had 27 career receiving touchdowns -- the most in school history -- and 102 career catches, which is good for second in school history.

“I think (Seth) is the best by far,” Scott Sweitzer said. “I wasn’t that good, but I had a good quarterback and good running back. I was blessed.”

He played with quarterback David Thompson and running back Jim Bell, who both went on to play at Boston College.

Scott Sweitzer currently coaches the JV team at Choate under Hand alumus and L.J. Spinnato, but he still watches film with his son every chance he gets. 

The two will break down opponents and watch how Seth played in his previous game.  And they can share a laugh, even if something goes wrong -- like when Seth threw an interception against Masuk on a wide receiver pass. 

“Oh God, it looked like a punt,” Scott Sweitzer said with a laugh. “He can throw the ball. I don’t know what happened.”

Seth ended up intercepting Masuk on the ensuing drive.

“I think (the whole family) just roots for each other," Scott Sweitzer said. “But I think everyone would be in agreement: I think he is by far the best athlete.”

The scoreboard at the Hand turf field at the high school is named after the matriarch of the family, Seth’s grandmother, Shirley French. It was donated by the Shirley French Lilac Foundation — started after French’s death in 2003 — which also donated money to open the weight room used by the football team. 

“You can’t talk Hand football without talking Sweitzers,” Fillipone said. “On the field and off.”

Seth Sweitzer will be the last Sweitzer at Hand for some time, but if it’s up to Becker, more will be coming.

“I believe that success breeds success, I believe our culture and high standards are going to breed those next guys until all these Sweitzers have children of their own and hopefully move back to town,” he said with a laugh.