Forever A Sooner

Danny Kobren
By Danny Kobren
Communications Assistant

Ric Swezey was a model for success. After an impressive career as a national champion gymnast at Oklahoma, Swezey continued to use his skills as a cheerleader, a stunt performer at Walt Disney World and a stunt double in movies such as “The Waterboy.” Following his stunt career, he became a successful realtor in New York City.

Despite his long list of accomplishments, Swezey is most remembered for his infectious smile, ability to make the best out of the worst situations and willingness to help others.

“Anyone who knows Ric says he is the life of the party,” former teammate Tom Meadows said. “He was the party. Not just with his joyous personality, he was quite the jokester. He always wanted a way to make everyone laugh.”

Swezey tragically died last June, leaving behind a legacy as a great husband, father and friend.  

Swezey helped the Sooners reach the top of the gymnastics world in 1991, when he and his teammates captured Oklahoma’s third national championship.

His journey with the Sooners began unexpectedly. During his recruitment, OU was not on his radar. Nonetheless, he decided to take a trip to Norman.

"We want to make it a fun remembrance. I think everyone is looking forward to swapping stories and just remembering things that they had done and maybe even have other connections continue forward that Ric has created."
- Head Coach Mark Williams

“He could have gone to any college he wanted to,” teammate Vince Pagano said. “He had a great time at OU and decided that is where he wanted to go. Everybody was better for it.”

In or out of the gym, most people who encountered the former gymnast have a story about his positivity. Whether Swezey pushed others to try something new, gave them life advice or just made them laugh, he always left a lasting impression on people.

“He had such a special quality connecting with people,” OU gymnastics head coach Mark Williams said. “I know he developed relationships with everyone that has been part of the program that he was a part of. Even afterward, I am amazed by how many guys he has touched since then. As an alumnus, he reached out to many gymnasts and they feel that he has touched their lives even though they weren’t even teammates.”

Swezey’s pride in his alma mater never dwindled throughout his life. He remained an active Sooner supporter well past his graduation. He attended the 2017 NCAA Championships with his family and even helped the team navigate New York City after its victory.

“He didn’t have to do those things,” Williams said. “It’s been 20 years since he has been here as an athlete and I am still talking to him on my cell phone about taking care of a team that just finished a championship. He was a really special guy.”

Swezey brightened his friends’ days all the time, but that is not all he did. He changed lives.

Former Sooner Laurence Chavez got a call from Swezey one morning, urging him to go to Las Vegas and try out for a Disney World stunt show.

“I auditioned, had a great time of course, and I ended up getting hired,” Chavez said.

Chavez and Swezey became two of the original Tumble Monkeys for Walt Disney World’s “Festival of the Lion King.”

“I spent 12 great years of my life there,” Chavez said. “After I left Disney World, I went into film and television where I now make my living. Ric is the reason that I work in film and television. I owe him a lot.”

The Sooners will honor Swezey at their 7 p.m. meet against Iowa this Saturday. Though the meet will be an emotional one, Williams wants the event to serve as a celebration of Swezey’s life.

“We wanted an opportunity to remember Ric, get everybody back together and appreciate what he brought to OU gymnastics,” Williams said. “We want to make it a fun remembrance. I think everyone is looking forward to swapping stories and just remembering things that they had done and maybe even have other connections continue forward that Ric has created.”

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