via articles.latimes.com: "Zamperini the track star and Trojans legend and Naber the swimmer are separated by about 40 years but share bonds as USC athletes and Olympians. And they are fast friends."
GMM: John Naber is a friend and a mentor to almost every athlete I know who has raced on the world-class level. Every Olympian I've met has a story about how, when and where John helped them in some profound way. John is, simply put, papa bear to us all.
When I was a kid, only 7 years old, John came to Charlotte, North Carolina and conducted a swimming clinic. It was 10 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes of fun. John knew our sport, swimming, was tough. He knew he needed to inspire us in creative ways to keep it interesting; singing songs in our head, racing the fastest swimmer in practice every 3rd lap (pretending it was the Olympic Games), swimming underwater as far as we could go at the end of each set. John was a pioneer of inspiration, planting seeds of success across the country, one swimmer at a time.
Now John's doing it again with Louis Zamperini, the star subject of Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling book, "Unbroken."
If you haven't read it, you should, whether you're an Olympian, a weekend warrior, or a fan of epic true stories. Zamperini was a tough kid, mischievous, an independent thinker who nearly lead a life of crime before he discovered he could run like the wind. Zamperini ultimately makes it to the 1936 Nazi Olympics, but doesn't win. Most Olympians go once, experience the overwhelming awe of the Games, and then return more focused, ready to win. Zamperini didn't get his second chance at Olympic gold. World War II derailed his chances. What he suffered at war--getting shot down over the Pacific, spending 47 shark-infested days at sea, suffering through a Japanese concentration camp--is the meat of the story. READ IT! YOU'LL LOVE IT!
Now that Zamperini's experiencing a level of notoriety, John (a fellow USC alum), has stepped up to help. John and Zamperini are a pair on the speaking circuit. John helps him book gigs, helps him make the appearances and everything in-between. John's done this over and over for so many Olympians, and he does it with such child-like enthusiasm you can't help be feel his joy.
I wish everyone could spend time with John Naber and experience the positive effect he has on people. If you ever have the opportunity to meet him, don't pass it up. After I met him, when I was 7, I saw John nearly every year growing up. To this day, he remains a friend and trusted advisor...as he is for so many swimmers and Olympians.
Here's John displaying his other great talent, storytelling. Watch him in action: