Erik Swoope exceeds Indianapolis Colts' expectations


When the Indianapolis Colts signed undrafted tight end Erik Swoope earlier this month, the former hoopster seemed to be nothing more than a freakishly athletic novelty act.

Unlike fellow former University of Miami forward Jimmy Graham, Swoope had never played a down of organized football in his life.

Notable NFL players who played college basketball
Player College NFL position
Connor Barwin Cincinnati DE
Martellus Bennett Texas A&M TE
Antonio Gates Kent State TE
Tony Gonzalez California TE
Jimmy Graham Miami (Fla.) TE
Vincent Jackson Northern Colorado WR
Donovan McNabb Syracuse QB
Terrell Owens Tennessee-Chattanooga WR
Julius Peppers North Carolina DE
Antwaan Randle El Indiana WR
Julius Thomas Portland State TE

After Swoope's performance in last week's rookie minicamp, though, coach Chuck Pagano believes the Colts have unearthed a gem.

"To be able to just break a huddle, get in a stance, run the routes that he ran, catch the balls that he caught, I mean, off the charts, exceeded our expectations way beyond anything that you'd ever imagine for a guy that never played," Pagano said, via the team's official website. "If he continues to work -- he's a bright guy, he's smart, he picks things up, he looks like he's got great passion for this -- who knows?"

Swoope has routinely run the 40-yard dash in the low 4.6s. His 35-inch vertical leap would have placed second among tight ends at the 2014 Scouting Combine. He has bench-pressed more weight than Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga has seen out of any basketball player in 43 years of coaching.

Physical ability won't be a problem. The question is whether Swoope can put on 20 pounds and pick up the intricacies of the NFL game after such a late start.

"Every time I walk by the tight-end meeting room, he's in there watching tape, he's with (tight ends coach) Alfredo Roberts studying and learning," Pagano added. "He's doing a great job to this point."

Take a trip down memory lane in this list of former college hoopsters who parlayed their basketball skills into a career in the NFL.

The Colts are stacked at the position with Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener topping the tight-end depth chart. If Swoope impresses enough to earn a roster spot this summer, he will start his career as a special teams member.

It's the role Larranaga believes is best-suited for a basketball player who got by on physicality.

"In Erik's case, he's best when there's contact," Larranaga told Yahoo! Sports in April. "I don't think that's going to discourage him at all. I even told my coaches, I could see him being on special teams tracking guys down and throwing people away to get to the ball carrier."

Touting Swoope as a "natural," Pagano referenced athletes such as Antonio Gates and former Colts tight end Marcus Pollard who have successfully converted to football.

"We've got some evidence out there of guys that have done the same thing, made the same transition, and ended up being pretty good football players," Pagano said, "so we're excited to see where he's going. He's got a high ceiling."

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