D’Andre Swift, of Mt. Airy, regarded by many scouts as the best collegiate running back in the country, is seen stiff-arming a potential tackler.

by Len Lear

D’Andre Swift, 21, who grew up in Mt. Airy and went to St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, was selected by the Detroit Lions in the second day of the NFL draft on April 24. The University of Georgia (UGA) star running back, regarded by many football analysts as the best all-around collegiate running back in the country, grew up playing for the Enon Eagles in Mt. Airy before going to high school.

The 35th player selected overall in the NFL draft, Swift said in an earlier interview, “Philly is where I get my mentality from. I can’t help it. Tough mindset. I’m a gritty guy. I love to compete, never back down from a challenge. Everything Philly is in me.”

When Swift’s name was announced from the podium after being selected by the Detroit Lions as the third pick in the second round, Swift was seen on the TV screen burying his head in his lap and tearing up. He was surrounded and hugged by family members in his Mt. Airy home. “So many emotions,” he said during the telecast. “Just so thankful.”

Interestingly, ESPN’s broadcast of the NFL Draft showcased Swift’s father, Darren, owner of the Swift Fit Gym at 2245 E. Tioga St. in North Philly, working out in his gym, and the hugely muscled bodybuilder looked as if he could block for his son if the Lions needed any offensive line help. One observer commented that if there was an NFL draft of players’ fathers, Darren, who trains lots of football players, would have been the first dad selected. D’Andre’s mother, Ayanna, said, however, that Darren has “the heart of a teddy bear.

“He cries at every end-of-the-year football banquet talking to all the kids about the transition they make during a season,” she told the Dawg Nation website.” During D’Andre’s recruiting process, his parents took steps to protect him from being misused by big-time football programs. But when calls came from UGA head coach Kirby Smart and his staff, “the level or respect and trust was obvious from the beginning,” according to fanbuzz.com.

In the end, there was only one place D’Andre Swift wanted to play college football, and it was not Penn State. When Swift announced his commitment to UGA, his father pulled up next to his son riding his custom Honda CTX motorcycle.

D’Andre was the second running back picked in the late April NFL draft, the first one ever conducted “virtually” because of the pandemic. The first running back picked was Clyde Edwards-Helaire, of LSU, who was the last player selected in the first round (by Kansas City Chiefs), three players ahead of Swift. Several analysts said that in years gone by, Swift would have been a definite first-round pick, but running backs are rarely first round picks anymore because the average NFL career for running backs is only 3.3 years since they are so often injured.

Swift’s career at Georgia was legendary, however. He made the Southeastern Conference (SEC) All-Freshman team and was named Georgia U.’s Co-Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2017 with 618 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

He played in all 14 games in 2019, totaling 1,216 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The Bulldogs narrowly missed going to the national championship game and had to settle for the Sugar Bowl, where they beat Baylor. Despite battling a shoulder injury toward the end of the season, Swift had a solid junior year that earned him first-team All-SEC honors. He left UGA early, after his junior year, to enter the NFL draft

As a senior at St. Joe’s Prep, Swift rushed for 1,564 yards on 149 carries, or more than 10 yards per carry, which is almost beyond belief, and 25 touchdowns. He left Georgia as one of only five players there with multiple 1,000-yard seasons in his career. The others were Herschel Walker, Knowshon Moreno, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The Mt. Airy native averaged 6.21 yards per carry last season, which ranked fourth in the country. He also averaged 9.1 yards per catch in his 73 receptions in three seasons.

Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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