INDIANAPOLIS -- The thought of playing football had always crossed Erik Swoope's mind. He wanted to be out there tackling and catching passes with the rest of his friends while growing up in Southern California.
But there was a problem with Swoope’s desire to play. He only wanted to play if he could do it with his friends. That wasn’t possible because Swoope stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 200 pounds at the age of 12. And while he was already dunking a basketball by then, his friends were 50 and 60 pounds lighter than him, eliminating any chance of being teammates with them since Swoope didn’t meet the weight requirement.
"I was taller and bigger than all my friends and it wouldn’t have been possible for me to play with them," Swooped said during the first day of the Indianapolis Colts' rookie minicamp.
Swoope continued to think about playing football during his four-year basketball career at the University of Miami, but the opportunity to do both was too much to ask because of the overlap of the seasons, and he went to the school to play basketball.
The chance to play football finally came about when the Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent earlier this week despite Swoope not knowing what it feels like to get hit on the football field. Playing football for Swoope is like a kid learning how to ride a bike for the first time.
"The main thing to me between football and basketball is that I just love being an athlete," Swoope said. "In the weight room, trying to get as strong as you can, as fast as you can, as quick as you can. And in basketball, it’s kind of a game of tempo. That’s what I’m learning also in football, but it’s more of an opportunity to be an athlete and for me, I’m enjoying it."
This isn’t the first time the Colts have signed a player who did not play college football. Marcus Pollard played basketball at Bradley University before the Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1995.
Patience is key for Swoope because of his lack of football experience. He’s confident because he feels he’s capable of picking up the game. He’s also curious how quick he can learn it.
One of the good things going for Swoope is that there haven't been any expectations put on him. The Colts are set at tight end with Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and serviceable backups Weslye Saunders and Jack Doyle. Swoope is able to learn slowly.
The first thing Swoope did right was get together with former University of Miami football players Jimmy Graham and Jonathan Vilma a few weeks ago. Graham, who played basketball for the Hurricanes and spent his fifth year as a tight end on the football team, worked with Swoope on route running. Vilma would tell him what he was looking for from the linebacker position.
Elsewhere in the NFL, Green Bay’s Julius Peppers played basketball at the University of North Carolina and played defensive end on the Tar Heel football team.
So why tight end for Swoope?
Tight end translates well from the basketball court to the football field, he said.
"I played power forward and I played on the wing, so I got use to playing a variety of parts on offense and defense," Swoope said. "That's one of the key carryovers, the size, the weight, the athleticism. It’s a quicker carry over because you’re use to studying a variety of things all at once."
Swoope doesn’t know what to expect when it comes to getting hit for the first time. All he knows is that he needs to run with his 6-foot-5 frame low.
"My brother played football and he told me I’m going to get hit and I’m going to quickly learn to get down and get the pads down," Swoope said. "I’m looking forward to this experience."