PHILADELPHIA — The NFL announced May 7 it is planning a return to its regular season in the fall, and among the players on the roster for the Detroit Lions will be Philadelphia native and St. Joseph’s Prep star D’Andre Swift.
Swift, a University of Georgia standout, reached a personal milestone and fulfilled his dream of becoming a pro football player when he was selected by the Lions with the 35th pick in the 2020 NFL draft April 24.
His trademark moves that will serve him well as a pro were obvious to most when he was a star high school athlete at Jesuit-run St. Joseph’s Prep.
Countless times he corralled a football and used his uncanny vision, instincts and legs to do something so athletically crazy on the field that it defied description.
When he was a senior running back, Swift returned to the sidelines during one particular game and received animated congrats from numerous mouth-gaped teammates for his moves.
“You’re gonna do that in the NFL someday,” said a non-team official.
Swift smiled that textbook grin of his.
“That’s part of the plan,” he said.
So in April, sitting in quarantine that afternoon with family and friends because of the coronavirus, Swift’s career objective came to fruition.
“With the 35th pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select … D’Andre Swift, running back, Georgia.”
With those words from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Swift was formally a part of the National Football League. The only thing left now is for his agent to solidify a contract.
And Swift hopes to be able to work out soon with his new teammates, coaches and staff once the global COVID-19 pandemic has subsided and continue to hone his God-given gifts at the ultimate level for football competitors.
Weeks earlier, Swift spoke with the media as part of the NFL pre-draft combine Q-and-A. Several of his answers reverted to his Philadelphia roots, where he grew up and first touched a football before he can even remember.
“That’s where I get my mentality from,” Swift said. “Philadelphia is a tough mindset. I’m a gritty guy. I compete. I love to compete. I never back down from a challenge. Everything Philly, that’s in me. That’s why I play the game the way I play it.”
Before embarking on a collegiate career at the University of Georgia, where he forged his name among the national standouts during his three seasons before declaring for the NFL draft, Swift set stat sheets aflame at during his time as a St. Joseph’s Hawk:
Three Catholic League championships, three state titles, 5,918 combined yards from scrimmage, 78 total touchdowns, one game with 318 rushing yards, four others in the 200’s, five with triple figures in receiving yards, seven touchdowns in the 2016 Catholic League championship.
After leading the Hawks to a state championship victory as a senior in the fall of 2016, Swift was asked a simple question: “How do you do it?”
After supplying the necessary plaudits about his unselfish linemen, skill players and coaches, Swift took a breath and stayed silent for about five seconds.
“I have a lot of God-given ability,” he said. “I just try to do the most that I can with it.”
Swift’s former head coach and several former teammates described what they remembered about competing with the Hawk, turned Bulldog, turned Lion.
Gabe Infante, now an assistant at Temple University in Philadelphia: “His talent is only dwarfed by his character. Loved by all who have had the pleasure of really knowing him, he is a once-in-a-coaching-career talent. He and his family are first class, and I am grateful to have coached him and to call his family, my family. Can’t wait to see what he will accomplish in the NFL.”
Joe Frio, class of 2015: “When Dre showed up his freshman year — my junior year — we all knew he was gonna be good just from watching him in practice, but after our first scrimmage against Imhotep at Tall Pines (Camp), we all realized he was going to be different because he was so good against a good team and it was his first high school game ever.
“What I liked most about Dre as a teammate was how easy he was to get along with and how humble he was. His confidence was rooted in how hard he worked and not in what people said about him.”
Dawson DeIuliis, class of 2018, now playing at Princeton University in New Jersey: “Dre’s work ethic, leadership and humbleness made everyone around him better and made us a stronger team. He set an unbelievable example both on and off the field. When the best player is also the hardest worker, it gives you even more motivation to be the best player possible.”
Marquez McCray, class of 2018, now playing quarterback at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut: “It’s like having your older brother you always looked up to playing next to you. He wants the best not only for himself but for you, and he brings the best out of you.”
Phil O’Connor, class of 2018, now playing linebacker at the University of Richmond, Virginia: “Having Dre as a teammate gave our whole team a tremendous amount of confidence going into games. Being able to go up against him in practice every day made the games much easier. He’s a hard worker that loves the grind.”
Knebels writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.