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Georgia running back D'Andre Swift chases NFL dream from Philadelphia to Athens

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When D’Andre Swift was a young child, he would spend Sundays in front of the TV watching the Philadelphia Eagles. Living in Philadelphia, Swift grew up an Eagles fan and often watched games with his grandfather, Henry Holloway.

Darren Swift, his father, said he remembers Swift expressing a dream during those early years while watching the Eagles.

“He would always say to myself and to my father-in-law, ‘Dad — or Pop-Pop — I’m going to be on TV when I get older. I’m going to play in the NFL,’” Darren Swift said.

As a sophomore running back at Georgia, Swift is one step closer to achieving that childhood goal. He first stepped in the national spotlight during his freshman year in 2017 when he finished as the team’s third-leading rusher and fourth-leading receiver.

In the wake of the departures of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, D’Andre Swift was called up to step into a featured role. For much of his sophomore year, he’s been hindered by injuries which set him back early on. But it didn’t stop from pursuing his childhood dream. Since returning to full form, Swift has gone on to have some of his best performances in games against Florida and Kentucky. His presence in the backfield is a key part in Georgia’s pursuit for another SEC championship title.

Carrying a heavier load

Swift is hitting his stride at the right time for Georgia. Despite his uptick in offensive production, he believes he hasn’t yet reached his full potential.

“I think that when I’m healthy, the sky’s the limit for me,” Swift said.

Swift had his first career 100-yard rushing game against Florida on Oct. 27, where he finished with 104 rushing yards on 12 carries and one touchdown. Just seven days later against Kentucky on Nov. 3, he broke the personal record he set the week before, rushing for 156 yards on 16 carries for two touchdowns.

While he’s found success the past two weeks, Swift wasn’t as explosive earlier in the season. He dealt with different injuries throughout the season. He suffered a foot contusion against LSU and revealed in September he also dealt with a groin injury, similar to one he dealt with this spring.

Swift’s accomplishments were recognized, and he was named Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Nov. 5 for his career-setting performance against Kentucky.

“I’m getting back healthy, so I think people are going to start seeing more of me exploding and stuff like that,” Swift said.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart recognizes Swift’s growth from last season. During a press conference on Sept. 25, he said Swift has become more of an explosive running back.

Smart pointed out the differences in Swift between his two seasons. He was in the role as the change-up running back his freshman year because Michel and Chubb were Georgia’s featured backs. This season, Swift has taken more reps and has worked to be a featured running back.

“I’m very pleased with his ability to protect and catch the ball out of the backfield,” Smart said. “He’s working really hard.”

Swift has been splitting carries this season with junior running back Elijah Holyfield through Georgia’s nine games. Swift acknowledged a competitive nature between the two of them, but referred to Holyfield as a brother.

Holyfield expressed a similar sentiment about Swift. He said they work to push each other to improve and be more vocal leaders for the team.

“We do a lot together, on and off the field, so I mean, we complement each other really well,” Swift said.

Formed in Philly

Swift’s ability isn’t a new phenomenon. He was recognized in high school for his talent.

Vanderbilt senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur said at SEC Media Days he remembered playing against Swift in high school. Shurmur attended LaSalle College High School, a rival school to Swift’s St. Joseph’s Prep.

“I was a junior and he was a freshman, and he was one of the best players on the field, if not the best player on the field,” Shurmur said on July 19.

Gabe Infante, Swift’s high school coach, agreed. Infante said he believes D’Andre Swift is one the best players he’s ever seen in his 20-year coaching career.

“So when you really look at what he does, in my opinion, he’s the most complete back Georgia has,”

-Gabe Infante, Swift's high school coach

Swift’s strengths as a running back from high school translated into his current role at Georgia. Infante said he is asked to catch the ball out of the backfield, pick up hard yards and pass protect, three components that make him a well-rounded running back.

“So when you really look at what he does, in my opinion, he’s the most complete back Georgia has,” Infante said. “Because no one else is asked to do everything he’s asked to do.”

Infante’s memories of Swift include what the running back did on the football field in high school, from winning a state championship in 2016 to signing with Georgia. But the coach’s favorite memory comes in a small moment during his sophomore year of high school when the team stopped for lunch.

Swift’s mother and sisters were traveling behind the team, and Infante invited them to eat. Infante said he watched Swift serve his younger sister and make sure she had what she needed in front of the football team.

“To see the genuine love and care he had for his little sister told me a lot about that young man,” Infante said. “For him to just be focused on his sister was a wonderful tribute to him as to what is really important to him. His family is really important to him. He’s a very, very loyal young man.”

Swift and Infante still keep in touch, either through texts or visits when he returns home to Philadelphia. Swift said their conversations revolve around school and a general discussion about life. Sometimes the conversations turn to football, where Infante might offer coaching pointers or advice. Mainly, though, Infante said their conversations are like two old friends catching up about life.

“He just did a great job at just helping me become a better man,” Swift said.

Runnin’ down a dream

When Swift runs wild on defenses and scores touchdowns for Georgia on Saturdays, people from his past are watching him, witnessing the next phase in Swift’s road to fulfilling his dream.

Infante tries to watch every Georgia game he can to see Swift play, and he’ll sometimes text Swift on Georgia game days to offer his support. The running back said Infante helped him mature early on in high school, and his maturity level transferred well into his collegiate career from the beginning.

When Darren Swift watches Swift play on TV, his father often sees a kid, instead of a star running back.

He said he remembers when Swift carried the football for the first time, made his first catch and made his first block. He thinks of the young football player, the one who used to sit in front of the TV and dream of being on a national stage.

“Ever since that point, nothing has deterred him from setting that track for himself,” Darren Swift said. “And that’s his goal no matter what, he feels his goal, that it’s obtainable.”

This article originally ran on redandblack.com.



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