INDIANAPOLIS – Most would want to scurry out of the Indianapolis winter after missing the playoffs for a second straight season.
Especially a California native, who played collegiately at the University of Miami, like Mo Alie-Cox.
But it's hard to blame Swoope for not wanting the 2016 season to end.
After two seasons of learning the rudimentary tasks of playing football, Swoope had a breakout campaign this past year---averaging 19.8 yards per catch, the second highest of 56 tight ends with at least 14 catches in 2016 (Rob Gronkowski was the only tight end with a higher yards per catch average).
Hence the reason Swoope wasn't quite ready to pack his bags back on Jan. 2.
"It's been funny," Swoope said during locker room clean out, the day after the season concluded, "I've been here maybe three, four hours, and this is the first time I've stood at my locker. I do not want to clean it out.
"This has been an awesome year — awesome year for my family, their support, them coming to games, getting to see me help the team win. It's been a real surreal blessing, and I just wish it wasn't ending."
As an exclusive rights free agent in 2017, Swoope has a good chance at returning to the Colts for a fourth NFL season, before a potential big pay day comes down the road.
This offseason offers Swoope a much different mindset from past ones.
Coming into 2016, Swoope had played in just one NFL game, logging a mere six offensive snaps.
Securing the third tight end spot for the Colts this past year, Swoope played in all 16 games, seeing offensive action in every contest (a total of 246 offensive snaps). Swoope finished the year with 15 catches for 297 yards and a touchdown.
For former tight end Rob Chudzinski, it's been enjoyable getting Swoope more involved into the offensive game plan.
"Going through the very basics that you can think of, we would cover and go through with him to develop him into this player, and not just in the pass game, but in the run game to become a guy you can count and rely on, it's fun to watch," the Colts offensive coordinator says.
"I am happy for him because of what he has put into it. That sometimes gets lost in it. He has talent, he has all those things but all of the extra hours of him sitting over there by himself and working and studying and looking at tape, asking questions and trying to figure things out."
The days of Chudzinski explaining what a defensive end is to Swoope are long, long gone.
Swoope showed in 2016 that he's a keeper.
Is the meteoric rise for the former basketball player just beginning?
"Time will tell," Chud says. "I think the things are there that you really like. You see the ability, you see the talent, you see the work ethic, you see the toughness, you see the want-to. Any time you have those things with a player, with a person, they are going to be successful down the road. There are going to be a lot of bumps along the way and we have talked a lot about those bumps with rookies and young guys and all the guys that are playing that are in those spots and Erik is no different.
"He is going to be successful, he is going to figure it out and find a way."
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