Ted Roof (center), Pat Swilling (99) and other Georgia Tech defensive players are soaked in mud during a game against Duke in 1985. Incoming Georgia Tech freshman Bruce Jordan-Swilling and Tre Swilling give Roof, now Tech’s defensive coordinator, a large amount of credit for their choosing to become Yellow Jackets. (Andy Sharp / AJC file)

If not for Roof, Swillings wouldn’t have signed with Georgia Tech

But the brothers would tell you that the greater influence was their father’s teammate and close friend, defensive coordinator Ted Roof.

“It was the biggest influence in us going there,” Tre said.

To hear it, Roof was early and consistent, making connections with them from the time they came to a camp at Tech before their freshman year of high school. While the athletic department has begun to prioritize selling the value of a Tech degree to recruits, the Swillings’ experience is a reminder of the value of recruiters such as Roof.

“Whether he was at Georgia Tech or wherever he was recruiting them, he was going to get them,” said Robin Swilling, Pat’s wife. “Because he got them. And it didn’t have anything to do with anything about Georgia Tech or Pat or whatever. He truly went over and beyond. He never fell off; he never stopped. He was calling me as much as he was calling them.”

Roof’s method was the staple of recruiting — building a relationship. Tre said that Roof didn’t focus his efforts on social media or sending them clever graphics, which has become a bigger part of the recruiting game.

“He’s a real big-time (proponent of), call you on the phone, ‘How’s your grades? What are you doing? Don’t get caught up with those girls. You’d better make sure you’re doing your work,’” Tre said. “He’s really down to earth.”

For his part, Roof saw this recruitment as different than others because of his friendship with Pat and Robin Swilling. The relationship helped his chances, but he said he also tried to be cognizant to not let the business of recruiting interfere with his friendship, and vice versa.

“It was great that Pat and Robin and I have been friends for a long time, but at the same time, this was about Tre and Bruce, because it was going to be their decision,” Roof said.

Pat Swilling said he tried to keep his thoughts and feelings out of his sons’ recruitment. In fact, he said that he initially wasn’t completely sold on Tech. His instructions to his sons were to find the right fit, a place where they could see themselves and a team that needed them.

From his uncertainty, Swilling was won over by his alma mater in the same way that many other prospects’ families are.

“The academics — it speaks for itself,” he said. “The school is what the school is. It’s a great school — you can’t go wrong there. But the opportunity to play at a major university, an opportunity to play early. Ted needs them on defense. All that stuff is a part of that mix.”

Roof has made a clear impact on Tech’s recruiting. With him focused on Gwinnett County, where he grew up, Tech has signed 13 players from the county in the past four classes since his hire in January 2013, including his son T.D., an incoming freshman linebacker. In coach Paul Johnson’s first six classes at Tech, the team signed five players from Gwinnett.

Potentially, none could be more impactful than the two Swillings, whose other suitors included Alabama, LSU, Florida State and USC.

“We have such a great relationship with coach Ted,” Tre Swilling said. “I couldn’t sit here and tell you that we would be at Georgia Tech if coach Ted wasn’t there. That’s just the honest truth.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.