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From The Hardwood To The Gridiron: Erik Swoope's Story

Posted May 12, 2014

Intro: When the Colts released their 19-man undrafted free agent list on Sunday afternoon, one name stuck out. Erik Swoope, a basketball player at the University of Miami, will be playing organized football for the first time ever when he joins the Colts.



INDIANAPOLIS – Since Ryan Grigson became the Colts general manager in January of 2012, his mantra of “no stone unturned” has taken his personnel department all over the world.

Professional football leagues at every level have been dissected and some even more unique measures have the Colts as one of the more interesting teams in how they go about building the monster.

Whether it’s finding a prospect fresh out of the Army, or a rugby player on another continent, it’s clear that if you can play, the Colts will try and find you.

The next step in that path has taken the Colts to the hardwood, fitting enough for the state’s history in basketball.

On Sunday, the Colts agreed to terms with Erik Swoope, a 6-5 and 220-pound prospect who has spent the past four years playing for the University of Miami basketball team.

Swoope begins his journey as an NFL player this week, having never played organized football at any point in his life.

“Erik Swoope is another example of our scouting department digging out capable and intriguing athletes with enough overall traits to make this difficult transition,” Colts GM Ryan Grigson said on Monday.

“He was a physical and athletic presence on the hardwood so like (Daniel) Adongo we saw a player playing a completely different sport but saw enough from a movement and competitive standpoint to think he would be a worthwhile project.”

 

The tight end position is where the former power forward will get his initial crack in the NFL.

Around the league, All-Pro tight ends Jimmy Graham (who also went to Miami) and Antonio Gates have paved the way for college basketball players trying to transition to the gridiron.

Even the Colts have had their own such product.

Joe Reitz finished his four years at Western Michigan as one of the program’s leading scorers and rebounders before adding nearly 60 pounds to his frame and becoming an NFL offensive lineman.

However, Reitz played football in high school and turned down scholarship chances to pursue his college basketball career.

A basketball career overseas wasn’t the path that Reitz wanted to choose after his days at WMU and Swoope is trying to follow suit.

When Miami’s season came to a close in mid-March, Swoope told the Miami Herald that it was time for a crash course in learning everything he could to prepare himself for the NFL.

He tuned in to NFL Network. He tracked down every YouTube video he could find of the NFL Scouting Combine. And he took copious notes on tight end routes from the Madden game (“It’s a decent study tool, like Football for Dummies,” he said.



One advantage Swoope brings with him to the game of football is having some family bloodlines in playing multiple sports at very high levels.

Swoope’s older brother, Devin, was also a basketball player in high school before a junior college football coach wanted the 315-pounder to strap on the pads.

Devin started his football career at Glendale College as a 315-pound nose tackle. That wasn’t the last spot Devin would be seen on a football field. He transformed his body into an outside linebacker and ended his tenure at Glendale as a 215-pound wide receiver.

On the court at Miami, Swoope used his elite athleticism to play meaningful minutes as an undersized power forward for a team that earned a No. 2 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

How that translates to the NFL is a question that no one can answer with conviction for a long time.

Jim Larranaga, Swope’s basketball coach at Miami, told Yahoo! Sports that his former player will bring much more than highlight dunks to the game of football.

"He's a phenomenal athlete, he's a hard worker and he'll pick up new concepts quickly because he's just very bright. One of the easiest ways for me to judge is that I was able to play Eric four positions. Most guys can only learn their position, but there were games I had Eric guard the point guard and games I had him guard the center. His athletic ability allowed him to be very versatile in basketball and his intelligence allowed him to learn every position."

"In Erik's case, he's best when there's contact. I don't think that's going to discourage him at all. I even told my coaches, I could see him being on special teams tracking guys down and throwing people away to get to the ball carrier."



When Swoope readies for rookie minicamp later this week, it will be like Daniel Adongo’s arrival all over again with an endoctrine to the game of football, let alone professional football.

For the Colts, it’s just one more stone they hope to add to an already sturdy, yet unique, building.

“(Swoope) has a good frame to add and the fact he ran low 4.6 (having never run a 40) and showed natural ball skills at his workout just made him that much more enticing to us,” Grigson says.

“Because of our willingness of our coaching staff to develop raw talent he has a great opportunity. Now the ball is in his court.”


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