INDIANAPOLIS — It's impossible to really comprehend all the hard work that went into Mo Alie-Cox's rise up the depth chart at tight end for the Indianapolis Colts.
His story has been told many times: a college basketball player at the University of Miami, the Colts believed Swoope had the makeup to complete the rare transition over to football, a sport he had never played growing up.
Leaning on the advice of another Miami basketball player-turned-tight end Jimmy Graham, Swoope signed with the Colts in May 2014 and immersed himself in every aspect of the game — big or small. He began working his way up from the depths of the practice squad, where he was stashed for his first two years, to the active roster, where he spent the entire season last year as the No. 3 tight end behind Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle.
But this offseason, the Colts traded Allen to the New England Patriots and re-signed Doyle, positioning him atop the depth chart and, thus, moving Swoope up to the No. 2 spot, setting this former basketball player up for a major role in the offense in 2017 and moving forward.
"Thinking about training camp, not knowing how to put on my shoulder pads, getting used to a helmet; to now, having played 16 games going into another season hoping to just grow from that. It's exciting," Swoope said in May when asked about his journey to the NFL. "It makes me want to continue to work hard and see what's in store."
But after a strong offseason, Swoope hit a major snag during training camp when he suffered a knee injury and had to undergo a surgical scope to clean it out. Although he wasn't initially expected to miss a significant amount of time, Swoope would eventually be placed on the Injured Reserve list at the start of the regular season, with hopes that he could return at some point this year.
It appears that point will be very soon.
Swoope this week was seen participating in practice for the first time since suffering his injury, meaning he can be placed back on the active roster as soon as two weeks from now. If that ends up being the case, Swoope will join guard/tackle Denzelle Good — who suffered a wrist injury Week 1 and was subsequently placed on IR — as the team's two allotted candidates to return from IR this season.
Swoope said he's been champing at the bit to get back on the field, especially after he had just solidified his role as the No. 2 tight end.
"I mean, I'm excited to watch the guys, but I want to be out there," Swoope said. "It's killing me, but I'm trying to use that for positive."
Although he hasn't been able to participate in practices or games this season, Swoope has been more than willing to be a resource within the team's tight ends room.
"It's been a blessing — I still go to meetings and everything and I'm fully embedded in what's going on," he said. "It reminds me of being on the practice squad. I mean, I just got my opportunity, so I'm used to the process of still learning and kind of watching it be done, so there's a little bit of comfort in terms of finding the right ways to talk to guys on the sideline, in meetings, so on and so forth."
In Swoope's absence, the Colts have primarily used fifth-year veteran Brandon Williams and undrafted rookie Darrell Daniels, who have combined to catch 12 passes for 128 yards so far this season.
Doyle has continued to flourish, meanwhile, ranking in the top 10 in the NFL in receptions (50) and logging 441 receiving yards with two touchdowns as quarterback Jacoby Brissett's primary security blanket.
"You always want to be the quarterback's fall-back," Swoope said of the role of the tight end in the Colts' offense. "So it's establishing that type of consistency where we can be trusted in whatever situation."
Despite the fact he hasn't been able to play all season, Swoope's attitude and work ethic has caught the attention of just about everybody around him — even members of the defense.
Nose tackle Al Woods, who is in his first season with the Colts, was recently asked which teammate has left the biggest impact on him. His answer? Erik Swoope.
"Yeah, I like him," Woods said. "You know, he's a quiet dude — he just comes in, goes to work. You know, easy to talk to. He was kind of one of the first faces I saw when I walked into the locker room, so I just kind of quietly take after him a bit."