Friday, December 18, 2009

One On One: HOFer Patrick Swilling, Georgia Tech

Talk about the honor of being with this class.

As a young kid, when you play high school and college football you’re thankful for the opportunity to even play. You never think you’ll be sitting here in New York City being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, where I think there have only been 15-1,600 players in the history of football to be inducted. For me and my family and Georgia Tech it’s a great day. To represent such a prestigious university…and you look at John Heisman and all the great players from Georgia Tech over the years and the great careers they had and what it just means….it’s humbling and a great experience for me and my family.

How about your Yellow Jackets? ACC champs going to a BCS bowl.

Our team is great. To get into the FedEx Orange Bowl is just wonderful. They fought for it and played a great Clemson team. I’ve never seen such a slugfest in my life like this past Saturday night. It just shows that Georgia Tech is back to the prominence where it was and if we go out and win this game, hopefully we wind up in the top five. It’s great for Georgia Tech and the whole family.

Were you happy you didn’t have to be out there chasing around C.J. Spiller?

I’ll tell you what—I was happy it was over when it was. That kid could have run for 500 yards, or more.

Derrick Morgan has done well and really exploded on the scene this past season. Talk about how impressive he is.

I spoke with him at the Virginia Tech game and I told him to keep playing hard. At that position you can be very talented, but it’s the guys who keep running to the edge, who go to the edge and run hard and play hard, that’s how you sack the quarterback and keep your engine going and become a great player. This kid has the ability to make it at the next level in the NFL with some better coaching on how to get to the edge and how to do different things with his hands. He’s going to be one of the best players, I think, in the NFL one of these days if he keeps preparing and working hard. It was good to see the year that he had and I’m looking forward to seeing him against Iowa. The kid had a great year and I think his football career is just getting started.

What’s the toughest part and secret to making the transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker it in the NFL?

I don’t know if there’s a secret. You look at some guys like myself, Charles Haley, and a few other guys who were tweeners. I think you really have to work hard when you’re one of those guys because it’s difficult for coaches to try and figure out, “Where exactly do I put this guy? Where does he fit in?” I was fortunate to have Jim Mora in that group. I was kind of a hybrid because I could rush the passer and I just worked hard at the linebacker portion of it even though we didn’t drop much, but I was pretty good at it. In the offseason I worked hard at it, learning coverages and learning where to be. I think it helped my career, but you get guys like myself who are 6’4” 245-250 pounds, who are a little too big to be a linebacker, but a little bit too small to be a big time defensive end. I was fortunate; I lost a little weight and got stronger so I could do both. To these guys who are tweeners—you have to figure out what exactly you need to do to get better and fit into that mold where the coach has to put you there. But I’ve seen a lot of guys who have struggled. It’s very difficult when you are a tweener to make the transition.

Is there uncertainty when asked to do something you’ve never been asked to do before?

I think there is and I think unless you’re willing to work really hard in the offseason to get better at what you’re not good at as a tweener, it becomes even more difficult. I could rush the passer, but they were concerned about my ability to drop back into coverage. So I spent the offseason with some guys down in Atlanta, every year, studying pass coverage. The whole point is: you have to work at the things you’re not good at to be a complete player in the NFL.

What about Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for the Heisman?

That’s an offensive award.

Who’s got your vote for the Heisman?

Spiller had a great year. I think it’s probably going to come down to one of those running backs and I wouldn’t be surprised if (Mark) Ingram at Alabama or Spiller at Clemson won.

Would you give it to Ingram?

I would, considering the success that Alabama’s had.

What do you think Tim Tebow will play in the NFL? Do you think he’s going to be a quarterback at the next level?

I think he could be a quarterback. If I was an NFL coach or offensive coordinator I would definitely take him because you look at what he can do. The concern is whether he can stay healthy in the NFL running the football. You look at his delivery as a quarterback and you see that he has a tendency to lay that ball back a little bit too low. Is he athletic enough to play in the NFL? Yes, because he’s a guy who can run the ball. Can you imagine what you could do with him in the Wildcat? He could really run the Wildcat. You’re talking about throwing, running, and passing so I think he could bring another dimension to an offense.

What are your thoughts on the NFL asking players to be honest when it comes to concussions and the symptoms that can occur?

I’m going to be honest with you; you can't make a club in the tub. If you’re hurt and can’t play, you’re not going to have a long career. I think you’re asking too much of players to not be tough guys. The NFL is a tough sport and I think the league, unfortunately, has softened the sport. There’s too much protection of certain people. This is football. This is not some other sport. I look at some of the penalties on these hits and things of this nature, I mean, come on guys…we play football for a living! I think the NFL has hurt the sport with all of this stuff. I like protection of players who have had multiple concussions, but let football players be tough guys…that’s what we are.

Photo Courtesy of the National Football Foundation