D’Andre Swift became a fan favorite in his rookie year, leaving spectators breathless with his lightning-quick moves that reminded Lions fans of Barry Sanders. But there’s more to this young athlete that meets the eye.
Long before he landed in Detroit, Swift was turning heads in the football world with his natural talent, inspiring leadership, and unbreakable connection to his hometown of Philadelphia. To truly appreciate what Swift brings to the Lions’ game plan, we need to understand the journey that brought him here. It’s a story of perseverance, passion, and purpose. One that illuminates just how integral Swift is to the future success of the Lions.
Family, Football and Philly Love
D’Andre Swift has always had a passion for football, and this passion was instilled in him from a young age. His grandfather was a big influence in his life. The two would watch football games together when he was a little boy. D’Andre was determined to make his grandfather proud, and he would often tell him that he wanted to be a NFL running back one day. Sadly, D’Andre’s grandfather passed away in 2004. D’Andre continues to honor him before every game. He writes “rest in peace” or “Pop Pop” on his wrist tape, gloves, or cleats, and has a private moment to himself to talk to his grandfather before kickoff.
The native of Philadelphia, D’Andre Swift, attended St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, a renowned high school that has produced many successful pro athletes. The list includes Victor Hobson, who spent five seasons in the NFL after playing for the University of Michigan, and Kevin Stefanski, the new coach for the Cleveland Browns.
A ‘Rocky’ Path to Georgia for the High School Star
Swift quickly made a name for himself in high school as a five-star prospect. His outstanding high school football career culminated in a 6A state championship win with St. Joseph’s Prep. In the championship game, he rushed for 140 yards and three touchdowns, leading his team to a 42-7 rout of Pittsburgh Central Catholic. As a senior that year, he had 149 carries for 1,564 yards and 25 touchdowns, catching 21 passes for 405 yards and nine touchdowns. In the Hawks’ three-game playoff run, he gained 716 rushing yards and scored nine touchdowns.
Swift’s success in high school was due in part to his talents as a leader. As a freshman at St. Joseph’s Prep, he quickly earned playing time alongside fellow NFL draft prospect Olamide Zaccheaus and Jon Runyan Jr. He spent his first year learning how to lead by watching and following the examples of these talented and driven players. He took note of how they worked and how they approached the game, emulating their strong work ethic and becoming a leader himself in the process.
He earned recognition as the fourth-best prep running back in the nation, according to 247’s consensus ratings. The running back was also the No. 1 prospect in the state of Pennsylvania. He looked to the south, taking visits to Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia. Ultimately, Swift decided to join the Georgia Bulldogs.
"See my dreams unfold" – 4-star RB D'Andre Swift channels Rocky as he runs through Philly towards commitment pic.twitter.com/yFUzDaqavi
Swift’s strong connection to Philadelphia was evident when he announced his decision to attend Georgia. In his commitment video he mimicked Rocky Balboa by running through the streets of his neighborhood before reaching his destination in a parking lot. There, he looked into the camera and said “Bulldogs” as an aerial camera swung upwards to show the Georgia insignia painted on the ground.
The Stanky Leg becomes the Dead Leg
Throughout his high school career, Swift’s style of play was characterized by his signature move, the “stanky leg.” This move, which involves sticking one’s foot in the ground and breaking off the other way, stopping on a dime, has become Swift’s trademark. His opponents, teammates, and coaches alike have all marveled at his skill in executing this move with precision and power.
According to his high school coach, Tom Sugden, they even trademarked the move at St. Joseph’s Prep, calling it the “stanky leg.” Georgia teammates, however, referred to it as the “dead leg.”
Regardless of its name, Swift’s ability to execute the move with agility, speed, and strength has made him a force to be reckoned with on the field.
“A blue-collar worker with superstar talent” at Georgia
D’Andre Swift’s three-year stint at the University of Georgia was nothing short of impressive. He joined the Bulldogs in 2017, determined to make a name for himself in the competitive Southeastern Conference (SEC). Swift’s high school coach described him as “a blue-collar worker with superstar talent” – a mentality that he carried with him throughout his college career.
Despite joining a team with two future NFL running backs, Swift quickly established himself as a dependable player. In his freshman year, he recorded 597 yards and three touchdowns on 81 carries. This included a 64-yard touchdown run in the SEC championship game. But it was Swift’s intangibles that made him stand out – his leadership and work ethic were second to none.
Swift proved himself to be a three-down back who could do whatever was asked of him. He was a leader both on and off the field, constantly striving to improve himself and inspire his teammates. In fact, some of his workouts came after midnight, long after his teammates had gone home. Swift often stayed late, catching balls thrown by a friend, and pushing himself to be better.
“I’d catch myself sometimes staying up and I’d think: ‘Why not go try to get better, why not go do something to be better?’ I’m the kind of person I’m never settling, I’m always looking to get better, you never can be perfect,” Swift said.
Swift’s commitment to his craft did not go unnoticed. He was looked at as a role model for the younger players and was often asked to address the team after games. After the team’s shocking loss to South Carolina in 2019, Swift approached Coach Kirby Smart and asked if he could address the team before the team meeting.
“I don’t think Jake (Fromm) faded away, I think my role was kind of unique. When I would speak, they would listen,” Swift said.
His grit was also apparent during the Sugar Bowl game against Baylor. Swift was not supposed to play due to an injury sustained in the previous game, but the excitement of the crowd and the energy of the team motivated him to play. His appearance on the field resulted in a crucial 46-yard pass to George Pickens and helped Georgia win the game 26-14.
Swift’s Legacy at Georgia
In three seasons, Swift amassed an impressive 3,551 yards and 25 touchdowns from scrimmage. He was named to the AP All-SEC second team and the Coaches’ All-SEC first team, cementing his place in Georgia’s rich history of talented running backs.
Swift’s dedication to the game and his teammates served as an inspiration to those around him. His leadership, work ethic, and commitment to excellence set him apart from his peers, both on and off the field. Though his time at Georgia was short-lived, his impact was significant, and he will always hold a special place in the hearts of Bulldog fans.
NFL Draft Disappointment turns to Redemption for Swift
D’Andre Swift was one of the best available players entering the second day of the 2020 NFL Draft, and many had projected him as a first-round pick. Swift, was left disappointed after he failed to hear his name called during the first round. After the Kansas City Chiefs picked LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the 32nd overall pick, Swift took to Twitter to express his disappointment, leaving many of his fans wondering what was next for the star player.
Kirby Smart, Georgia’s head coach, recognized that Swift needed to hear from him after being snubbed in the first round. Smart immediately reached out to Swift and spoke with him, acknowledging his disappointment and encouraging him to stay positive.
The Detroit Lions, who were in need of a running back, ultimately selected Swift with the 35th overall pick. Swift’s former teammate and fellow second-round pick Nick Chubb was quick to reach out to him. Chubb reminded Swift that being a second-round pick can still lead to a successful career.
A New Start and Fresh Opportunity for D’Andre Swift
With the Lions, Swift can make an impact on a team in dire need of a running game spark. The Lions haven’t finished in the top half of the NFL in rushing since the legendary Barry Sanders retired. Swift’s impressive collegiate career at Georgia, with over 1,000 yards in his final two seasons, has given Lions fans reason to hope for a turnaround.
Swift’s disappointment on draft night has given him a chip on his shoulder. He has a desire to prove that he was a first-round talent. He possesses a rare blend of power, cut-back ability, route-running skills, and accomplished blocking in pass protection. Swift is determined to demonstrate his worth in the NFL. His leadership and work ethic undoubtedly make him a valuable piece to the Detroit Lions future.
Swift’s Time with the Detroit Lions
D’Andre Swift had a bit of a rocky 2022 season. He had a nagging shoulder injury and an ankle injury in the opening game against Philadelphia. Swift missed three games due to his injuries and finished with 542 yards rushing and 48 receptions for 389 yards. He also added eight total touchdowns. While these numbers aren’t terrible, they fall short of Swift’s goal of 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards.
Swift’s injury history is a concern as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. He’s missed nine games over three seasons, so it’s crucial that he stays healthy to earn a big payday. Despite his injury concerns, Swift has shown that he’s a legitimate threat in both the run and pass game. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and catching 48 passes in 2022.
Heading into the 2023 season, the Lions will need Swift to be healthy and productive to take their offense further. Scottie Montgomery, the new running backs coach, can help Swift take his game to new heights. He’s a coach who emphasizes the fundamentals, and this can benefit both young and already-talented players. The Colts saw significant improvements in their running game under Montgomery’s tutelage. Players like Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines improved each year with Montgomery’s focused coaching.
The Lions will need Swift to perform at his best in 2023. Thus, Ben Johnson and co. will look to set him up for success. Coach Campbell has expressed his desire to see Swift get his legs under him before the season begins. If Swift can stay healthy, there’s no doubt that he can become a consistent, dominant force in the NFL.
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