Mario Swann can’t help but laugh remembering how he chose maize-and-blue sweatpants and sweatshirt to wear to school the day one of Eastern Michigan’s assistant football coaches dropped by to chat.
An avid University of Michigan fan for as long as he can remember, Center Grove’s hard-hitting cornerback in time found himself listening to the recruiting pitch of one Mike Hart.
As in former Indianapolis Colts running back and Wolverines legend Mike Hart, the Wolverines’ career leader in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns. He is now Eastern Michigan’s running backs coach.
Hart’s objective: to persuade the young man wearing his alma mater’s colors to warm up to the green and white he now dresses in.
More recruiters are likely to follow. Swann’s play during the past nine weeks has garnered too much attention for Division I programs not to take notice.
“In the past I really didn’t think about playing college football. After we got beat by Carmel in the semistate last year, it began to click with me that I could be a playmaker,” Swann said.
This from a player who as an immature sophomore spent a good portion of the 2010 season roaming virtually every square inch of his coach’s doghouse.
“Mario had to grow up and show us that we could trust him. After his sophomore year I gave him the biggest bummer a coach could give in our offense by making him a receiver,” said Trojans coach Eric Moore, a proponent of the run-oriented Wing-T offense. “But Mario had a great attitude and did a great job. He’s like the class clown. He’s funny. But when he’s on the football field, he’s all business.”
Sometimes it’s a painful business.
In nearly every game this season Swann has delivered a hit that forces spectators to wince and opposing receivers to think twice about extending their bodies in order to retrieve the football. He admits his best overall performance was Center Grove’s 17-14 victory against then-second-ranked Ben Davis. In his mind, his best hit of the season was when he flattened a wideout on a bubble screen in the Week 3 home loss to Carmel.
Being shifted to receiver last season allowed Swann to sharpen his defensive instincts while charging downfield to deliver his trademark chinstrap-loosening blocks.
“Now when I’m playing defense I can put myself in their shoes,” said Swann, who neglected to mention his desire to knock receivers out of theirs.