Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.)

If not for a college sports injury, Rep. Eric Swalwell may never have landed on Capitol Hill.

A goalkeeper for Campbell University in NC’s soccer team, the California Democrat broke both his thumbs during his sophomore year in 2001. “Kind of on a lark,” the Golden State native applied for an internship in the office of then-Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.).

{mosads}“I came here not really knowing whether I was a Republican or Democrat,” says Swalwell. “I didn’t really know much about politics when I was 20. The first congressman my parents ever met was me.

“But you can’t help getting bit by the bug if you come here and do a political internship.” 

His political path wasn’t the only thing 33-year-old discovered when he was in school: “I finally learned it’s not cool to iron your jeans. My dad would iron my jeans, so all the way up to college, I would iron my jeans.”

“Then I started to realize it’s actually cooler and more hip to not iron jeans.”

While his father’s penchant for pressed denim might have been a tad misguided, Swalwell says he taught him something valuable, “My dad’s lesson remains: you don’t need a big budget to look sharp.”

As a kid, Swalwell applied that lesson to his footwear too. “I remember growing up Nike Air was like the ‘in’ shoe,” he says. As one of four sons in a working-class family, Swalwell says his parents couldn’t afford the coveted sneaker, so he came up with a DIY solution: “I remember drawing a swoosh on the back of the shoe and writing ‘Air,’ ” he says with a laugh. Asked if the handwritten trademark tricked any of his friends, he chuckles and replies, “No, I was not a very good artist, but I wanted them to be fooled.” 

These days, Swalwell is putting on his shoes for 3.5-mile daily runs. He ran a marathon once, but says that’s it for long-distance competitions for him. “You [could] tell at the finish line I was like 23 miles beyond what I should have been doing.”

He still plays soccer for fun, however, and is doing his best to wean himself off Venti mocha Frappuccinos (complete with whipped cream and drizzle). But he’s not giving up his love of maple bars — rectangular doughnuts with a maple glaze topping. He admits, “I will try and restrict myself to two or three maple bars a week … but sometimes I’ll reward myself with a few more.”

—Judy Kurtz


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