Tyrone Swoopes is an enigma.
His body says NFL, but his record as a quarterback at the University of Texas doesn’t match. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s not a place for him at the next level.
Every year, guys find roundabout ways onto NFL rosters. As the 2017 NFL draft approaches, Swoopes is trying to be the latest, by way of switching positions, to tight end.
Swoopes graduated in December, after a 31-9 loss to TCU ended Texas’ 5-7 campaign and Swoopes’ college career, where the Longhorns went a combined 24-26. He started 14 games at quarterback before taking a reserve role, primarily deployed in short-yardage situations in the package that became known as the 18-wheeler. It was named as such because he both wore No. 18 at Texas and was known to use his 6-foot-4, 249-pound frame to run over smaller defenders on designed runs, bootlegs and in scramble situations.
I’m very optimistic. I think I’m really going to surprise people with how well I can move.
But 18-wheeler brute force does not an NFL prospect make. Not by itself, at least. And that’s where Michael Johnson Performance comes in.
Swoopes, who was not among the 330 prospects invited to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, is preparing instead for Texas’ Pro Day on March 28, when he hopes to make an impression on NFL scouts, to show them something they might not have seen on his college tape.
“I’m very optimistic,” Swoopes said at Michael Johnson Performance media day Wednesday. “I think I’m really going to surprise people with how well I can move.”
The speed and explosiveness with which he moves has been the primary concern since Swoopes started training in the McKinney prospect factory’s eight-week program.
“Tyrone has gotten better with his explosiveness. That was one of the first things that was a concern for me at the very beginning,” said Johnson, who works with NFL prospects specifically on straight-line speed and 40-yard dash times, while employing a host of coaches to hone the skills it takes to perfect other common combine and pro-day drills. “His movement is efficient. He moves really well, but you’ve got to be able to move quick, and to move with power and purpose.”
So prospects strap on resistance harnesses and dissect their starting positions and take-offs frame by frame in the complex that includes a 6,000-square-foot indoor turf section, a ground force measurement system and a research lab sponsored by Nike.
Speed is perhaps the biggest tangible that Swoopes needs to drastically improve in order to catch the eye of the NFL scouts, even in a business where “all it takes is one” has become the refrain of the fringe hopeful. But the skill requiring the biggest adjustment on Swoopes’ part is blocking.
Tyrone has gotten better with his explosiveness. That was one of the first things that was a concern for me at the very beginning. Michael Johnson on Tyrone Swoopes
“I’m a physical guy,” Swoopes said. “I’m just not used to actually getting my hands on people and moving them in a certain direction.”
It’s a matter of technique, and techniques can be learned, both Swoopes and Johnson are quick to point out. What’s not as clear is which, if any, NFL team will be willing to take a flyer on a tight end prospect who’s taken exactly zero competitive snaps at the position after coming out of tiny Whitewright High School. Swoopes did possess enough pure athleticism at the quarterback position to be named a 2012 Elite 11 finalist and be invited to the prestigious The Opening camp before his time at Texas.
Swoopes was MaxPreps’ No. 4-ranked high school player in the country in the Class of 2013.
Making the transition from passer to pass catcher is by no means an unprecedented one. Even recently, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was drafted by Arizona in 2014 before being cut and eventually signed to the Detroit Lions’ practice squad. Thomas was signed to the Buffalo Bills’ 53-man roster in November.
For reference, at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, Thomas ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, had a 35 1/2 -inch vertical leap, a 9-foot, 8-inch broad jump and ran a 7.05-second three-cone drill.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor is a higher-profile example of the successful position switch, but is not as directly applicable, as Pryor doesn’t do near as much blocking at wideout as Swoopes would at tight end.
“Theyre both natural athletes,” Swoopes said of Thomas and Pryor. “And I feel like I’m the same thing. I feel like if both of them can do it, I can do the same.”
Matthew Martinez; 817-390-7760; @MCTinez817