Tyrone Swoopes striving to be the best
WHITEWRIGHT, Texas -- Vince Young. Cam Newton. Tyrone Swoopes.
On a daily basis, in the tiny north Texas town of Whitewright, Swoopes fields questions and accepts compliments from those who watch him play. Whether it's at the local Exxon gas station on the corner on U.S. 69 or immediately after a game under the lights at Tiger Stadium, the junior star quarterback is constantly entertaining thoughts that he reminds fans of a younger Young or Newton.
"I hear Vince Young a lot," said Swoopes, physically a man among boys at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. "I try not to let it get in my head. I just think that Vince Young is Vince Young and Tyrone Swoopes is Tyrone Swoopes. I'm just trying to make my own name."
To Swoopes, it's an honor simply to be mentioned in the same sentence as two NFL quarterbacks, but the comparisons aren't enough for him. A second-generation Whitewright student, Swoopes has aspirations of being better than good, and many feel he's already done enough to be considered one of the nation's elite athletes in the Class of 2013.
"This is my 24th year of coaching, and I've been around some special ones," Whitewright coach Jack Wylie said, "but he may be the most special I've coached."
Wylie and Whitewright offensive coordinator J.D. Henderson both coached star Texas A&M receiver Jeff Fuller when he was a high school sensation at McKinney (Texas). Henderson coached former Texas Tech and NFL running back Ricky Williams when he was cutting his teeth at Duncanville. Swoopes, according to Wylie and Henderson, has the tools to be better than both Fuller and Williams.
A varsity contributor since freshman year, Swoopes has led Whitewright to a 3-0 record this season, and has accounted for more than 1,000 total yards and 14 touchdowns, nine of them rushing. Swoopes is averaging more than 11 yards per carry. He tallied more than 3,000 total yards and 38 tackles as a sophomore last season.
Swoopes also is a free safety on defense. He has recorded 16 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in three games.
More than a dozen schools have expressed major interest in Swoopes, and the junior has picked up early offers from TCU, Texas, Baylor and Stanford. Swoopes possesses size, very good speed (he runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash) and a cannon for an arm. He can throw the ball 70 yards.
What makes him such a prospect is that he is still considered somewhat raw behind center. He's been playing quarterback only since the seventh grade. Swoopes' mother, Elizabeth, remembers when he first began playing organized ball in the second grade. Back then, Swoopes was a running back and linebacker, and similar to now, he took advantage of his size against the other kids.
"He really stood out on the field," Elizabeth Swoopes said. "His thing was defense; he loved hitting people."
That physical nature has stayed with Swoopes throughout his high school career. Wylie awards a Whitewright player each week for delivering the biggest hit in a game. Swoopes, who bench presses 240 pounds and squats 410, has won that award twice -- for his play at quarterback, not at safety. Many defenders have challenged Swoopes head to head on a tackle only to come up on the losing end.
When I first got here [three seasons ago], they had gone through the first losing season and non-playoff year in 10 years. There are several reasons why we turned it on last year and went from 2-8 to 10-0. We had a great senior class, but it also was because of Tyrone and what he did at the quarterback position." -- Whitewright coach Jack Wylie
"He doesn't shy away from contact, so we can do things like run a counter or quarterback isolation plays with him," Wylie said. "I think that's where he's at his best. I don't know about intimidation, but I know he carries a load of respect."
Henderson added: "When I first got here, I watched him throw the football and watched how explosive he is running the football. He's not a finesse runner. He's a physical kid who wants to hit you. I think the comparisons to Cam Newton and Vince Young are very good comparisons, because he's tall, strong and physical."
In addition to the schools that have offered, Swoopes has heard from Alabama, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Arkansas, among others. Getting a good education is just as important for Swoopes as playing for a winning program -- and rightfully so, as his mother was the valedictorian of her high school class when she attended Whitewright.
For what it's worth, Swoopes is an A-B student. His mother, a sixth-grade world history and geography teacher, as well as a girls' athletics coach in the Whitewright school district, keeps him grounded academically.
"I know if I don't pass my classes, I don't play," he said. "She doesn't play."
Elizabeth Swoopes added: "Even if you have all the talent in the world, if you don't take care of your business academically, you won't see the field. That's how I was raised. My job is to go to work and pay bills. His job is to go to class and get good grades. Football may be a way to eventually pay for college, but you can't do that if you don't go to class."
Wylie said Swoopes, in addition to being one of the most dynamic athletes he's coached, might be one of the most humble. Swoopes has a total understanding of honing his craft and appreciating the talents he possesses. He still has another year of high school after this, and as the accolades, compliments and comparisons come, the hard work must continue.
After all, being "good" isn't enough for him.
"I've seen people who come from Whitewright who are really good, and in the blink of an eye, it all can be taken away from you," Swoopes said. "I want to be the best I can be, and I'm willing to work hard to be the best I can."
Damon Sayles covers recruiting in the Midlands for ESPN Recruiting. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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