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Steelers For Swann, a brand-new bowl game

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

By Suzanne Martinson, Food Editor, Post-Gazette

Choosing a cereal is a mind-boggling business. Big long aisle, all those boxes, brands that seem to come and go quicker than a summer thunderstorm. Then we spot a familiar figure -- Isn't that Lynn Swann catching the pass? -- and grab it, especially if we're Steelers fans.

"I've always wanted to be on the cereal box," says Lynn Swann. Sales of Swann's Super 88 cereal will benefit Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. (Bob Donaldson, Post-Gazette)

"I've always wanted to be on the cereal box," Swann said yesterday, introducing his Super 88 cereal at Firewaters, the North Side watering hole that probably has never poured this much milk.

"My kids will say, 'Daddy, is that really you?' They've never seen me play football."

The Limited Edition Collector's Box commemorates Swann's induction Aug. 4 into the Hall of Fame. Swann chose from a list of cereals presented by PLB Sports Inc., a food marketing firm that also did Flutie Flakes, selling more than 3 million boxes over three years to Buffalo Bills fans of quarterback Doug Flutie (now with the San Diego Chargers).

Swann's Super 88 was manufactured by Gilster Mary Lee, a Jasper, Mo., company that does retailers' private labels. How to describe them? O's with attitude.

Swann picked the kind of a cereal he eats. "I'm not a frosted flake," he joked, "and I'm not a bran kind of guy." He chose Honey Toasted Oats; the 14-ounce box, available at Giant Eagle stores tomorrow or Friday, will sell for $3.29.

"I plan to frame a box and hang it in my kitchen," he said.

Swann, 49, a svelte 5-foot-10 and dressed all in black, busied himself before the press conference hanging a Swann Hall of Fame T-shirt and cap on the podium. A portion of cereal sales goes for scholarships to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (the wide receiver, who studied ballet himself, was dubbed the "Baryshnikov of football") and the Big Brothers and Big Sisters, which he has supported for more than 21 years. In his era, he quipped, "We volunteered time. Athletes today fund foundations."

He said 50 percent of the money from the Lynn Swann Hall of Fame shirts and hats will go to the chosen charities. You can order them from the back of the cereal box, and they are also available at Dick's Sporting Goods.

"We're going to have the cereal in West Virginia and Ohio, aren't we?" he asked. "The Steelers have annexed some of those border towns."

Growing up in Alcoa, Tenn., not far from Knoxville, Swann said he disappointed his late grandmother by not donning Volunteer Orange at the University of Tennessee, instead opting for the University of Southern California. He wore Steeler black and gold for nine years that included six AFC Central Division titles and four Super Bowl Championships.

As a kid, he admitted he was a "picky eater," and cereal was his breakfast. His chosen cereal today, a good source of 12 vitamins and minerals, is low in fat and sugar -- delicious, he says, with bananas and strawberries.

"My kids like it," he says of his 3-year-old and 5-year-old, then went on to suggest that it's perfect to pour into a baggie and eat in the car. Quickly he issued a parental advisory for what ends up under the seats: "Honey Nut Toasted Oats does not come with a vacuum cleaner."

Yesterday was Swann's first opportunity to meet the artist, Wexford's Joe Kanoza, who did the painting he calls a "take-off" of the famous Sports Illustrated cover of Swann's catch in Super Bowl X, voted one of the 10 most exciting plays in Super Bowl history.

Kanoza, who also paints golf courses, won't ever forget it: "Everyone remembers that catch over the Dallas Cowboys. He was jumping and falling over another player but reached up and caught the ball." The catch won the game, and now the ever competitive Swann, who works for ABC Sports, wants to outdistance Flutie Flakes.

Tomorrow he's visiting Steelers training camp, and someone suggested he ought to take some cereal along, in case the magic might rub off. "They've got a new receivers coach," he says with a grin. "I might give some to him."

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