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'I looked up to him': VFL Parys Haralson's former teammate reflects on the loss of his friend

It was announced on Monday that Haralson died at the age of 37. He was a force on the field but remembered by Vols close to him for who he was off the field.
Credit: Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Many in the Tennessee football community continue to mourn the loss of their former teammate and friend Parys Haralson who died on Monday.

The former Vols defensive end and the two-time captain was just 37 years old.

"The reaction is what you imagine, just heartbreak and devastation," former teammate Jayson Swain said.

Swain joined Tennessee a year after Haralson.

Haralson was a force on the football field at his position. His 21 sacks through his career placed him fifth in program history.

He went on to be drafted in the 2006 NFL Draft in the fifth round by the San Francisco 49ers. He played as a pro between 2006 to 2014 with the 49ers and New Orleans Saints.

"He was only six foot and you look at defensive ends around the league, around the SEC, you don't see too many six-foot-tall defensive ends," Swain said. That just tells you about his work ethic and how he was able to mold his game and do what works for him."

While what he did on the field was impressive, it was off the field where he made the most impact on those close to him.

"As a person off the field is where he was an All-American in my eyes," Swain said. He lit every room up that he stepped into and treated everyone with respect. I looked up to him, he was a year ahead of me but I looked up to him because of the way he handled himself and the way he treated people and the way he carried himself. He was a professional before he was ever a professional in the NFL."

Swain held the honors of being a team captain in his senior season. He credits that to the man Haralson helped him become.

"You want to be around guys that do the right thing and he was always the guy that I tried to follow on the football field and off the football field," he said. "I had a great model to follow."

Swain said he'll always remember how Haralson was a jokester, always smiling and always laughing.

"You want someone like that in your circle and in your life because he added a lot of value to many people's lives," he said.