Erik Swoope on learning football fundamentals: 'It was like teaching a child'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Erik Swoope couldn’t help but to get caught up in the moment after the road he took to reach the NFL.

The Indianapolis Colts tight end would think about it as he was down in his stance preparing to try to block Denver pass-rush specialist Von Miller or Oakland’s Khalil Mack. He would think about it while flying back on the team’s charter plane after games.

It’s understandable if Swoope got caught up in the moment. It was less than three years ago that he arrived in Indianapolis having never played a down of organized football. He didn’t know what a three-point stance was or even how many players were supposed to be on the field for each team.

But you wouldn’t know that after Swoope capped off his first full season on the active roster by having 15 receptions for 297 yards and a touchdown. That’s not too bad for the latest basketball player turned NFL tight end to step on the scene.

“I didn’t think I could play football, but however I’m standing here, finishing my third year of football and I have an economics degree,” Swoope said. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to do that, either. There’s a lot of things in my life that if I would have just told myself otherwise it would not be. I didn’t even know how to get into a three-point stance. I did not know there were cadences. I thought everything was just, ‘set, go.’ I didn’t know anything about football.”

The Colts showed their confidence in Swoope when they didn’t re-sign Coby Fleener last offseason. That was a significant step for Swoope, who signed with the team in May 2014 after playing basketball at the University of Miami.

“[I remember] the first time sitting down with him and going through those things and explaining there are 11 guys on defense and these guys are called defensive ends and these guys are called linebackers and secondary guys,” Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. “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.

“You laugh sometimes and you smile because sometimes you see some things that happened to him and you know that is the first time that has happened to him. Something he would’ve never expected. You smile sometimes and you know the next time he will be prepared and ready for it.”

Swoope routinely picks the brain of Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham, who also made the transition from playing basketball to football, but Graham was at least able to play a season of football with the Hurricanes before jumping to the NFL. Swoope didn’t do that. That’s why he has spent a significant amount of time asking the most basic questions to the coaching staff and to his fellow tight ends in the meeting room.

“When I say I didn’t know anything, it was like teaching a child,” Swoope said. “I’m just so thankful they allowed me to be here and learn and sit in the building and ask annoying questions. … I’m shocked that Jack [Doyle], Dwayne [Allen] and when Coby was here, they were just willing to answer my questions, because they did not stop.”

Swoope’s role with the Colts could be even greater next season because Doyle, the team’s No. 2 tight end, is about to become a free agent. The team wants to re-sign Doyle, but you never know how free agency is going to go. Swoope, like he did this season, is ready to embrace any role he gets next season.

"You see the ability, you see the talent, you see the work ethic, you see the toughness, you see the want-to," Chudzinski said. "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.”