When the Colts signed Erik Swoope, it was an interesting and intriguing move. Swoope (6-5, 220 pounds) didn't play football in college but rather played basketball at the University of Miami, where he played in 110 career games for the Hurricanes and scored 291 points, grabbed 186 rebounds, 37 steals, 31 assists, and 25 blocks. He played in 1,190 minutes and shot 51.9 percent from the field while shooting 57.7 percent on free throws. In keeping with a recent trend in football, the Colts signed a basketball player and are turning him into a tight end, as tight ends typically have a history of playing basketball.
We really had no idea what to expect of Swoope coming in, but way back in May at rookie minicamp, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was pleased with what he was seeing from the tight end:
"To be able to just break a huddle, get in a stance, run the routes that he ran, catch the balls that he caught, I mean, off the charts, exceeded our expectations way beyond anything that you'd ever imagine for a guy that never played. If he continues to work, he's a bright guy, he's smart, he picks things up, he looks like he's got great passion for this. Who knows?"
The high praise for Erik Swoope continues, with Pagano again talking about how impressed he is with the tight end during his press conference on Saturday:
"Unbelievable. Again, for a guy who never played the game, he's picked it up extremely fast. You see the talent level out there on the football field, the athleticism, the catch radius, the hands. Going up and rebounding and doing all that stuff, obviously the ball skills are there and he's been doing things like that. Going up and playing big and going up to get a football, that's no different than going up and getting a rebound. His biggest challenge is going to come in the run game. Getting stronger, getting bigger, adding weight and then being able to be a complete tight end. We've seen as an athlete out in space him beating defenders, linebackers, secondary personnel one-on-one and making plays down the field. We know he can do that and we know he's going to be eventually a really good matchup for us versus our opponents. He's doing a great job, and again he's a really bright guy, he's a smart guy and he picked up things extremely fast. We've been able to take him day after day after day a lot faster than most, so he's in a good place."
Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton also talked about Swoope and the expectations for him when he addressed the media Friday:
"I must say, every day is a learning process for me as well. I have never been through the transition from never playing football to playing football at the highest level and it's been surprisingly amazing that he has been able to go out and function and make plays. He has a wealth of talent and we'll see where it takes him."
Swoope also addressed the media Friday and was asked how long it took him to get the basics of football down:
"It took me a second. Luckily, I tried on the pads during OTAs, but getting used to catching with them has been a little different. The angles that you're looking for as opposed to when you don't have anything on your shoulders, but I've been trying to work hard to just adapt quickly."
Swoope has impressed me as well. It seems like every day he's improving on something, and as a receiver especially he looks good - much better than I expected. The other day I remember watching him closely as a blocker in the blocking drill (linebackers vs. tight ends and running backs), and it was less than impressive. In fact, it was just plain bad. But that same day (and most other days, too), Swoope made a couple of nice grabs and continued his progression into an NFL tight end. I think it's easy to forget the fact that this guy was a basketball player not too long ago and now he's out there with an NFL team making some nice plays. I'm not sure where Swoope stands in regards to the other tight ends and in fact I'm pretty sure that he's probably still fifth behind Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Jack Doyle, and Weslye Saunders, but his improvement is impressive and fun to watch. He has been more impressive than I expected, and the Colts obviously feel the same way.