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INDIANAPOLIS – Erik Swoope guesses the last time he played football it was two-hand touch in the fifth grade. He's now a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts. Big leap anyone?
Shortly after Swoope completed his college basketball career at the University of Miami, he found out the Denver Broncos were curious about his interest in football. As word spread, other teams called. Swoope ultimately worked out for seven teams. Then, after the draft, the Colts offered the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Swoope a free-agent contract.
Swoope is a tight end. Or will be, once he learns the game of football.
“I understand I'm a project and I plan on being patient and doing my best,” Swoope said Friday on the first day of the Colts' rookie mini-camp. “It'll be tough. I'm willing to be patient with myself. In my history with basketball, I had to be patient for my opportunity and it came in the last 10 games of my senior year. You have to keep working.”
The Colts aren't afraid to take chances with their undrafted free-agent signings, as evidenced by the signing last year of rugby star Daniel Adongo. At least Swoope grew up around football, since his older brother Devin played at Northwood University in Midland, Mich.
Devin Swoope, in fact, served as inspiration for Erik in making the transformation from basketball player to football player.
Erik tells the story:
“When Devin got to Northwood, he was 317 (pounds), playing nose tackle. He lost 100 pounds in one year and switched to outside linebacker and finished his senior season as a wideout. He's been the main person I've talked to and mentored me through this. He said, 'I went through a serious transition. You can do this.' Mine is pretty simple. I just have to learn one position.”
While the Colts have established tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, coach Chuck Pagano likes what he sees in Swoope's raw talent.
“He looks natural,” Pagano said. “He can get in a stance, he looks natural running routes, he's obviously got great ball skills and hands, he doesn't drop many balls, he's bright as all get out. Every time I walk by the tight end meeting room, he's in there watching tape, he's with (tight ends coach) Alfredo Roberts studying and learning. The guy has exceeded our expectations for having not played the game. He's doing a great job to this point.”
Swoope said he considered playing basketball overseas, but the more he explored the idea of playing pro football, the better he liked it. He watched the Miami football players' Pro Day to get prepared for individual workouts with teams. Swoope spent time recently working with former Miami players and NFL stars Jimmy Graham and Jonathan Vilma.
As a power forward, Swoope has some natural athletic moves that can translate to tight end. The most likely landing spot for Swoope will be the practice squad this season.
“We've got some evidence out there of guys that have done the same thing, made the same transition, and ended up being pretty good football players,” Pagano said, “so we're excited to see where he's going. He's got a high ceiling.”