INDIANAPOLIS – It was about this time almost three years ago that Indianapolis Colts tight end Erik Swoope truly had no idea what he was about to get himself into. He just knew he was up for the challenge.
Swoope, an undrafted free agent, had never played organized football. He was a four-year basketball player at the University of Miami. Football was foreign to him for the most part. To put it into perspective, Swoope had to learn to learn the fundamentals of football at a time when others had those areas mastered.
But through persistence and determination, Swoope worked his way up from practice squad player for his first two seasons to being active for all 16 games last season after Coby Fleener departed for New Orleans. The Colts showed further faith – and commitment – in Swoope when they traded Dwayne Allen to New England in March and didn’t select a tight end in last week’s NFL draft.
So Swoope has gone from basketball player to now being in position to be the Colts No. 2 tight end next season.
That’s not too bad for a player who didn’t know how to get down in a three-point stance when he first arrived in Indianapolis.
“These past couple days, they’ve made me think about exactly what your question was, how far I’ve come along,” Swoope said when asked about his progression. “Everything – thinking about training camp, not knowing how to put on my shoulder pads, getting used to a helmet; to now, having played 16 games going into another season hoping to just grow from that. It’s exciting. It makes me want to continue to work hard and see what’s in store.”
Swoope said he made basketball, the sport he grew up playing in Southern California, a distant memory when he signed with the Colts. He’s picked up a basketball just three times in the past three seasons. One of those times he went “faster than walking pace.” His focus was strictly on the football field as he sought to be like Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham as the next college basketball player-turned-NFL tight end. Swoope, was the third tight end behind Allen and Jack Doyle last season, had 15 receptions for 297 yards and a touchdown.
“Every route, every catch, every rep of anything gives me more confidence because I can see the development,” Swoope said. “Then it builds trust in my own mind because at the end, you have to be able to believe in yourself to make plays and prove it to your teammates as well. Every rep I get I have that intention of I’m going to gain some type of ground.”
The Colts could eventually end up with two tight ends who are former college basketball players on the roster. They signed former VCU basketball player Mo Alie-Cox last month. The 6-foot-6, 262-pound Alie-Cox averaged 9.5 points and 4.2 rebounds last season at VCU.
“I have people to learn from, guys who work hard and an organization that is just going to be behind me 100 percent in developing me and making sure I turn into the football player that I want to be,” Alie-Cox said.
The biggest advice Swoope will give Alie-Cox is to be patient.
“You see everyone else working,” Swoope said. “They’ve been doing this for years, their whole lifetime. You aspire, you want to be like these guys. You’re competitive. You want the role, you want the job, but understand you have to train the muscle memory you developed in basketball; to a certain aspect, you’re going to have train that out of your body and start to learn football traits. That’s going to take time. For me that took about two years.”