INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The urgency of the moment isn’t lost on Erik Swoope. How could it be?
“I’ve spent two years studying, learning everything, asking a million questions,’’ he said as he continues to morph from power forward at the University of Miami to a viable tight end with the Indianapolis Colts.
“Now it’s time to make a move.’’
Or else? Was that the unspoken but implied stipulation?
“More of less,’’ Swoope replied with a smile. “Arguably, yeah.’’
Let’s get one thing out of the way from the outset: It’s impossible not to pull for Swoope. He’s engaging, articulate.
And his story rekindles memories of Marcus Pollard, a power forward at Bradley who was given an opportunity by the Colts in 1995 to determine if his athleticism was transferrable.
Pollard defied the enormous odds and seized the moment. His Colts’ career lasted a decade and among tight ends he ranks No. 3 all-time with 263 receptions and No. 4 with 3,391 yards and 35 touchdowns.
But it took patience. Pollard had zero catches in ’95 and six for 86 yards and one touchdown in ’96. His third season also was modest: 10 catches, 116 yards, no TDs. He finally began to emerge in his fourth season with 24 receptions, 309 yards and four touchdowns.
The reason to look back is to remind everyone Swoope isn’t attempting the impossible, just the improbable.
But again, time’s running out. And he knows it.
Swoope was one of general manager Ryan Grigson’s outside-the-box signings during the 2014 offseason – similar to rugby star Daniel Adongo – and the Colts must determine if he’s made the necessary development, or whether this is another low-risk experiment that failed.
“I got my shot at the end of (last) year and in my eyes I need to build off that,’’ Swoope said.
After spending the ’14 season and the first 15 games last season on the practice squad, Swoope was signed to the active roster for the finale against Tennessee. He saw action in six plays at tight end and 15 on special teams.
It’s called baby steps. But no longer.
“This needs to be the next steppingstone where I show I can do this on a consistent basis,’’ he said. “In my two years watching myself on tape, my honest opinion is I’ve had my moments. I make a play here, do the right thing here.
“But I need to show that I understand the offense and continue to study going into this offseason, going into training camp. I need to show I can be consistent day-in, day-out.’’
If so, there’s a definitely spot on the depth chart.
Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle are the top two at the position, but the offseason departure of Coby Fleener created a sizable hole that must be addressed. Barring an addition prior to the start of training camp in late July, the prospects consist of Swoope and a pair of rookies – Arkansas State’s Darion Griswold and Taylor’s Mike Miller.
Whichever player earns the No. 3 spot must bring the requisite skills: the ability to get off the line and be an option in the passing game and an end-of-the-line blocker in pass protection and in the run game.
“It’s time for me to be a football player and show them what I’m made of,’’ said Swoope, who hadn’t played competitive football at any level before the Colts gave him a helmet 24 months ago.
According to coach Chuck Pagano, Swoope has “made tremendous strides basically every day since he’s been here. Obviously that piece of clay and that body we saw early on is much different now.’’
Virtually everyone, he added, has looked good during offseason work.
“We’re in shorts. We’re running around in just helmets,’’ Pagano said. “We’re going to find out a lot more going into this training camp once we get the pads on.
“(Swoope) doesn’t look like a guy that’s never played and a basketballer that’s playing football for the first time.’’
That basketball background at Miami and Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, Calif. no longer matters.
“Basketball’s been out for a very long time now,’’ Swoope said. “The day I landed here I said, ‘OK, it’s football time.’ I didn’t look back.
“I did have options to play (basketball) overseas. I had thought about them before I got here. But once I got on that flight to Indy, I said, ‘OK, basketball’s over.’’