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Erik Swoope Continues Development With First-Career Touchdown

Intro: At this time three years ago, Erik Swoope was a forward on the University of Miami’s basketball team, having never played organized football. On Sunday, he scored his first-career touchdown in the NFL in the Colts’ critical win over the Minnesota Vikings.


MINNEAPOLIS — Mo Alie-Cox's journey of basketball player-turned NFL tight end has been told many times, but it bears repeating after his earning a major milestone in his football career on Sunday in the Indianapolis Colts' critical victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Just three years ago Sunday, Swoope was a senior forward on the University of Miami's basketball team, having never played a down of organized football in his life.

But Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and his staff saw something in the 6-foot-5 Swoope that convinced them to bring him on the Indianapolis offseason roster in May 2014 as a project at the tight end position, a la Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham.

Since that time, Swoope has not only put on almost 40 pounds of muscle on his body, but he's had to start learning the nuances of football, as well as playing the tight end position, from scratch.

He's hit several smaller, but still significant, milestones since that point, playing in his first NFL preseason game that August and making his first professional catch in the Colts' third preseason game against the New Orleans Saints; signing to the Colts' practice squad in September 2014; being re-signed the following offseason; spending most of the 2015 season on the practice squad once again; and then being signed to the team's active roster for its Week 17 game against the Tennessee Titans, in which he would make his NFL debut.

But 2016 has been a year of rapid improvement, and major milestones, for the 24-year-old Lake Elsinore, Calif., native.

With the No. 3 tight end spot open for the Colts heading into the offseason, Swoope worked harder than ever to entrench himself in the team's offense, and by Week 1, he had earned the job. He even earned his first-career start Week 2 against the Denver Broncos, and by Week 6, he had made his first regular-season reception.

And, on Sunday, with his team needing him the most as it fights for the possibility of a late-season playoff push, Swoope was able to answer the call.

With 7:16 remaining in the second quarter Sunday against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, Swoope's 27-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Andrew Luck, the first time Swoope had ever found the end zone in his football career, gave the Colts a 17-0 lead.

It was a play that confirmed Indianapolis' foot was firmly on the gas pedal.

The team would use that wave the rest of the way, dominating the host Vikings, 34-6, and staying alive in the playoff hunt.

"First touchdown of my life," Swoope told the Colts' Matt Taylor as he walked off the field Sunday. "I wish I could explain it."

The play was the culmination of an impressive nine-play, 92-yard drive that took 5:39 off the clock.

After getting into Minnesota territory with a five-yard Frank Gore run, Luck looked Swoope's way for a 16-yard reception to the Vikings' 27.

Then, on 1st and 10, Luck dropped back and read the defense — and Swoope ran the perfect route — and lofted a pass down the left side of the field, right over the head of Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and into the waiting hands of Swoope at the 5-yard line. He secured the catch and dove into the end zone, and was immediately embraced by fellow tight end Dwayne Allen.

"It was a great call, and I'm just thankful that 12 looked my way," Swoope said. "The coverage was perfect and I just tried to do something with it."

In all, Swoope had three catches for 50 yards and that touchdown on Sunday, and the Colts would go on to earn the much-needed victory.

For the season, Swoope has caught 13 passes for 230 yards — an average of 17.7 yards per catch — and he has also been a constant of the team's special teams units, as his six special teams tackles rank sixth on the team.

Swoope said he's enjoyed the learning process every step of the way as he tries to mold himself into an NFL tight end. Sunday's game was just the latest, albeit major, chapter in his story.

"Every game I've learned a little bit of something about myself and about this game, and it's just been making more sense," Swoope said. "To the guys in the tight ends room — Coach Hos (Jim Hostler), Dwayne (Allen), Jack (Doyle) — they've been so hopeful, so yeah, everything's starting to click."

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