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Before Bryan's revelation, those in the packed courtroom watched defense attorney Walter Maksym smilingly object to virtually every question posed by Irmen's attorney, Karen Delveaux. Judge Ann Jorgensen massaged her temples and endured lectures by Maksym before overruling nearly every objection. Bryan sat politely in his Palatine Reds kids' team baseball jacket, fiddling with the braces on his teeth. It was your worst People's Court nightmare.
But when the trade was revealed at 2:49 p.m., the judge jumped to her feet in a billow of robes. "In my chambers! Now!" she barked at the two attorneys. Her verbal lashing of Maksym for allowing the "evidence" to be traded could be heard through the plasterboard walls. When court reconvened two days later, Maksym, now accompanied by his attorney, produced the prodigal card. The new owner, who remains anonymous but is obviously an entrepreneur, agreed to part with the card temporarily upon being assured that the court's Exhibit 1 sticker would remain affixed even after the proceedings. (The card, with sticker, could be worth as much as $3,000 when the trial ends.) What ensued was the legal equivalent of a two-hour argument between an umpire and a manager, in this case Jorgensen and Maksym. The trial was then put off until April 4.
Leave it to Bryan to put the case in perspective. After the trial was rescheduled, he was overheard saying to his father, Joseph, "Guess this means I'll miss another day of school."
Last week in Raleigh, N.C., on a slick, barren football field, 42 stopwatches were poised as a horde of NFL scouts, coaches and front-office people awaited Eric Swann's burst off the line. They were there to see what this peculiar 20-year-old prospect, all 6'4" and 311 pounds of him, could do. And there he went, churning and puffing. His 40-yard time: 4.89 seconds. That's good for a linebacker, and Swann is a defensive tackle. "That sound you just heard was cash registers ringing," quipped the Bills' director of player personnel, John Butler.
Indeed, even though Swann has never played a down of college football, he stands to make a lot of money from the April 21 NFL draft. Among those defensive linemen eligible for the draft, he is rated a near equal to Miami tackle Russell Maryland, who is a certain top 10 pick. Swann is likely to be the first noncollegian ever taken in the first round of the draft, which began in 1936. "I feel very proud to be a landmark in history," Swann says.
A year ago, Swann was working at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh, doing maintenance work while waiting to enter North Carolina State on a football scholarship. He had moved to Raleigh to study for the college boards after graduating from rural Western Harnett ( N.C.) High School in 1989 with SAT scores too low for him to enroll on a football scholarship. A C+ student in high school, Swann took the test eight times between '88 and '90 without success.
After the eighth failure, last spring, a pro scout advised Swann to give the Minor League Football System a try. Swann called Bay State Titans general manager Dick Bell for a tryout. Bell was impressed and took him aboard. In 11 games with the Titans, based in Lynn, Mass., Swann had 11 sacks and 33 quarterback pressures despite constant double-teaming. Last October, Bell, acting as Swann's agent, successfully petitioned the NFL for '91 draft eligibility for his charge. Is Swann worth a No. 1 pick? "In two years, the guy who drafts Swann will either be a genius or be fired," says the Redskins' assistant head coach, Richie Petitbon.
Perhaps the nicest part of this story is that Swann plans to put aside some of his bonus money for college. "I'm determined now to go to college," he says. "I love school. You miss out on making lifelong friends when you miss out on college."