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Viral Pittsburgh Steelers fan reacts to signed Chase Claypool jersey: ‘I got to see my dad again’

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BJ Swoager pulled out his phone and started recording. He was witness to something he hadn’t seen in months.

His 76-year-old father, Jimmy, was opening a FedEx package. And in it was a jersey signed by the man who sent it, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool. 

“The crazy thing is, we haven’t really seen any emotion out of him, probably in the last two months,” Swoager told USA TODAY Sports. “He kind of sits in the room. And he was a yeller. We’re from Pittsburgh. We’re loud. We’re obnoxious. We’re screaming at refs.

“I hadn’t seen my dad cry in maybe five, six months, and we would cry together all the time. When he started reading what Chase wrote, my dad just sat there and started weeping. Overjoyed. To see all those emotions, which we hadn’t seen in six months, I got to see my dad again. My mom, she got to see her husband again.”

It all started with an earlier TikTok video, and one that came out of a simple question Swoager asked his father. 

“Dad, what would make you happy?”

A lifelong Steelers fan and Pittsburgh native, Jimmy replied that he was having a difficult time remembering the name of that rookie on the team, the one who was scoring all the touchdowns.

It was about a year ago that Jimmy was officially diagnosed with dementia. And the rookie was Claypool, who now has 333 receiving yards and six total touchdowns this year.

So Swoager, a student pastor at Faith Community College in Trussville, Alabama, started shooting the first TikTok video. He posted it to his account October 16 and it shows Jimmy wearing Steelers gear and holding up various jerseys of previous stars on the team. Swoager explains the dementia diagnosis and mentions how they still watch all the Steeler games, but that his father struggles to remember the names and some historical details of the team’s franchise history. Swoager tagged Claypool, fellow receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Steelers’ official TikTok accounts.

Shortly after, Claypool followed Swoager and they exchanged messages.

Four days later, Claypool checked in again. He told Swoager that he would be sending his father a signed jersey and asked what he wanted it to say. Claypool’s only condition was that Swoager keep it secret for the time being. But before signing off, Claypool had another message to convey. He wished Swoager a happy 40th birthday.

“Bro, I couldn’t believe it,” Swoager said. “I couldn’t believe he was writing me. And then I had Chase Claypool wish me a happy birthday on my actual birthday. It’s incredible. I was blown away just from that. Just unbelievable how kind he is.”

Then, on Tuesday morning, Claypool shared his own TikTok video on his verified account, showing him holding up a jersey, signing it and heading to a FedEx store to ship it. 

Claypool also posted it on Twitter, where it went viral.

In the day since Jimmy opened the package, Swoager estimates that his father has called him 100 times and always asks him to thank Claypool.

“He’s like: ‘This is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me,’ ” Swoager said. “He told me: ‘This is the best memory that I’m going to have.’ For him to say that, that means he has a new memory that he may not have had. Given what he’s going through, that’s everything.”

The impact of Claypool’s gesture, Swoager said, has trickled down to his sons. Like Jimmy, Swoager is also a Steelers fan. And Swoager has now passed that on to his two boys, Cardin, 9, and Maddox, 7.

“We get taken out of the will if we’re not black and gold, baby,” he said.

Jimmy “basically raised” Cardin when Swoager and his wife had to work. Swoager said his father used to weigh more than 400 pounds and it was when Cardin started to roll around that Jimmy realized he needed to lose weight to keep up with his grandson. Swoager said Jimmy lost around 280 pounds and taught Cardin how to play football.

Now, Cardin constantly asks to watch the first video Swoager posted. And when Cardin does see it, two things happen: His connection to the Steelers grows and he always wants to see his grandfather.

“This just shows that we’re human,” Swoager said. “And people do good things. We’re having the hardest time of our lives with everything going on in the world. Chase Claypool has inspired compassion into my kids. 

“It’s a big deal, man. It lets you know that there’s something out there that’s looking out for you. This is something that’s going to be for the rest of my life, this one, random act of kindness.”

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