Georgia's Next Man Up: A Sit-Down Interview with D'Andre Swift

Photo: GeorgiaDogs.com

Before he was racking up the rushing yards in Sanford Stadium and forcing defenders every which a way while scampering to touchdowns, Georgia running back D'Andre Swift was a kid who use to roam the field as a rusher for the Enon Eagles - a local Pop Warner Football League team at his church in his hometown of uptown Philadelphia.

At 6 years old, he started playing the game officially, but his grandfather, Henry Holloway, is the individual that he credits with introducing and helping him fall in love with the action on the gridiron.

"We use to always watch football every Sunday. He shed light on the game to me and I didn't start playing football until he passed away. I started playing the game then because it's something that he would've wanted to see me do, so, really, I'm playing for him, and that's where I get my love for the game from."

The man referred to as "Pop Pop" was the source of inspiration and a hero for a small kid that loved karate and the newly introduced game of football. Tragedy struck in 2004 and Holloway passed away from an illness. The sudden death of his grandfather was a tough feeling for Swift to endure and shake. Constantly asking why and not having any answers as to why this actually happened to the person that he deemed untouchable is what hurt him the most. 

Just how much does his grandfather's legacy mean to him? 

"Something that I started doing in high school was writing 'R.I.P. Pop Pop' on the tape on my left wrist as a tribute to him. Without him, I wouldn't be in the position that I'm in today because of him teaching me through the early stages of the game."

Making a promise to carry on his heroes spirits that are forever instilled within him, Swift quickly became one of the top players in Philly while attending St. Joseph's Prep. A historic senior season that included 1,564 rushing yards and 34 total touchdowns, he became the top ranked player in the state according to every recruiting service. 

A memorable moment, he capped off his illustrious high school career with a perfect 14-0 record and captured a victory in the 2017 Class 6A State Championship game.

Recapping the magical year, Swift mentioned that, "It was amazing. We had a great group of guys and leaders. So much talent on the field. We just played together every game and we had so much fun that everything else took care of itself."

Now, as one of the most highly sought after recruits in state history, Swift positioned himself to sign with any school in the country. His father, Darren, always wanted his son to choose an ACC or SEC school because he felt as if they presented the best challenges in multiple avenues.

His career at Georgia almost never happened though.

"I was actually supposed to go to Clemson. I went up there and loved the coaches, but I was told that they were only taking one running back in my class. I kind of wanted to wait out my commitment. Someone else actually committed before I did and they didn't have a spot for me at the time." 

Exploring and eventually signing with the top team in the ACC seemed to be a distant possibility now that he wanted to remain patient with his decision on where to continue his playing career.

Why Georgia? That is the simple question that I asked Swift, but his answer was anything but.

"Georgia. We came down here a couple times and I liked the visit. With what the coaches were telling me, I could tell that it was real family oriented and with the players too. So, I made the decision based off of Nick (Chubb) and Sony (Michel). They were supposed to go to the league after their third year. That's really why I committed. I knew I'd have a chance to come in and have a role as a freshman."

Stealing my next question to present to him, Swift reiterated that Chubb and Michel returning to school was "the best thing that happened to me".

The star running back explained that, "learning and just doing stuff with them on and off the field was great because I could go to them and count on them before I would even go to my coaches. I had a great relationship with them."

With Chubb and Michel both finishing ranked in the top-20 overall among league leaders in rushing yards as rookies, and one becoming a Super Bowl champion, there's plenty to take away from each side of one of the best duos in college football history. 

"I learned how to carry myself as a pro without even being in the league. As one of the leaders on this team, people look up to me now, and I have to make sure that I'm setting the example by doing the right thing, which is what I learned from those two when I was a young player. I gotta lead by example."

Despite being in the No. 2 role behind Elijah Holyfield last season, the then sophomore standout still found a way to accumulate 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns, which were both team-highs.  

His career-best outing came in a 186 rushing yard performance against Auburn, but it was his 156-yard contest against Kentucky that caught my eye. Recording a career-long 83-yard touchdown run, but it was his 20-yard touchdown score with just over 2:30 minutes left in the second-quarter that made me raise up in my seat.

Swift has incorporated a patented dead leg move in that he plants his foot hard into the turf, giving the illusion that he's heading in that direction before quickly readjusting his path and jolting into the opposite one.

Where did this move originate and how has it become your go-to to being so successful? I needed answers to that question and the method of thinking that goes into this vicious tactic that's shredded SEC defenses weekly.

"I don't know why, it just happens so easily on my right side, but I can do it on both sides. I really don't think when I run. Stuff just kind of happens. I think it was No. 7 on that run, I kind of like, broke to the outside, he was, like, coming at an angle. I can see him out the corner of my eye - my peripherals. I knew that I could step real fast, replace that other step before he even does anything. I knew he was coming at an angle to where I could beat him inside. It happened so fast and it's really just God-given ability."

Getting a good joke and laugh out of the situation, I couldn't let him end the discussion without humbly bragging about who the second person was that he juked on that play before exploding to the endzone.

I quickly asked him if he remembered (even though I knew that he did) who the second person was that he juked during that play sequence. It was defensive end Josh Allen (No. 41). The most recent No. 7 overall selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Letting out a big laugh and exuberating plenty of confidence, he replied "after watching it on film the next day I knew who it was, but at the time I didn't."

Now entering his junior season and having never been the full-time starter as the lead back at the school that's known as "RBU", stepping into the shoes of his legendary Bulldog predecessors such as Herschel Walker, Knowshon Moreno, Todd Gurley, and his mentors in Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel, Swift is overly excited about the opportunity to finally become Georgia's lead Dawg.

"The opportunity means everything. I feel like I still have a lot to prove. I think a lot of people are still doubting me and talking about what I can and can not do. I'm excited for this team too. We have a great group of young guys as well as a lot of experience coming back too, so I'm excited."

With a highly anticipated 2019 season on the horizon, not only from Swift, but the team in general, they once again will be placed under the microscope as one of the nations top teams.

There's already lots of excitement about Swift's potential at the next level, but for now, he's not worried about that. Strictly focused on the upcoming season and being the best teammate that he possibly can be are the only areas that he's concerned with.

"I want to have a winning season with my team. I'm really excited with my role as being a leader. I put the team before me, so it's really all about us before me. For me personally, I'm just looking to stay healthy, and when you win, good things happen after that."

With the perfect last name for a player at his position, D'Andre Swift is looking to once again be one of the top rushers in the country. Excitement is at an all-time high and expectations are plentiful in Athens, but Swift is looking to take full advantage of his opportunity as RB1.

Donning the red and black, with the notable "R.I.P. Pop Pop" in large black ink courtesy of a black sharpie on his left wrist tape, he has plenty to play for and a legacy to fulfill among many who are counting on him to swiftly run past the competition.



For more NFL Draft news and notes, be sure to follow Jordan on Twitter @JReidNFL.

Written By:

Jordan Reid

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-Founder of ClimbingThePocket.com. Former QB and Coach at North Carolina Central Univ.

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