Jan. 25, 2017
D.J. Swearinger played with intensity and pride. The former South Carolina safety (2009-12) and current Arizona Cardinal, who recently wrapped up his fifth NFL season, grew up in Greenwood, S.C., and he thoroughly enjoyed playing college football for the name on the front of the jersey. In his own words, this is what “Carolina Made” means to D.J. Swearinger.
Playing for people that know our state and grew up here, there was definitely a sense of pride in that. I originally committed to Tennessee, but when they made a coaching change, I thought about how important it was to play at home.
South Carolina was the first team I thought about because they were the home team, and I wanted to be in the SEC. I talked to a few of my (future) teammates, like Stephon (Gilmore), Alshon (Jeffery) and Damario Jeffery, and we all decided we wanted to stay in-state and try to do it for our home state. So that’s what we did. We wanted to change the culture. When I got on board, I tried to get as many other guys on board here, too. I wanted us to have something special.
When I got here, I saw the potential we had, so whenever I saw guys we were recruiting, I tried to get them here.
I had to make adjustments. Against Alabama my freshman year, we played at their place, and I was actually playing cornerback at the time. I had to tackle those big running backs they had with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. I definitely got welcomed to the SEC on that day.
When I played here, it was all love. We just had a brotherly love with my teammates, roommates and coaches, from the top down. The fans are incredible. On Saturdays at Williams-Brice, the students have it rocking! That was a big key for me.
When we beat (No. 1) Alabama here, that was probably the most memorable game for me. We wanted to change the culture here. That started something where we knew we could beat the powerhouses in college football.
Note: After winning the SEC East in 2010, Swearinger and the Gamecocks won 11 games in each of his last two seasons and would finish with a top 10 national ranking.
Being at South Carolina helped me get ready for the NFL.D.J. Swearinger
Always Home in Greenwood
Growing up in Greenwood, you had Gamecock fans and you had Clemson fans. I went to some Clemson games because it was close to Greenwood. I never was a Clemson fan, though. I always liked South Carolina over Clemson. The rivalry means a lot. You get bragging rights for 365 days straight when you win that game.
In Greenwood, we grew up with football. I grew up in an athletic family, so I was always into sports. We had a great tradition at Greenwood High School with all of the state championships. As a kid, we’d go to high school games to watch my older cousin play. They were our role models. Football is just big in the state, and it’s big in Greenwood.
I remember when Ricardo Hurley (2002-2005) played at South Carolina. He was from Greenwood. He was a sort of my role model then. So when I got here, I wanted to be better than him.
Now that I made it to the league (NFL), I know other kids are looking up to me. I tried to be a role model for kids because I remember what it was like to look up to guys when I was that age.
Other than football, the best part about my hometown was the fish fries. I’m a country boy. Fish fries and cookouts. That’s where you enjoy your family and enjoy your friends. Everybody comes over and has a good time.
My mom had the biggest influence on me growing up. She was hard on me, but she always kept my head on straight. She always knew when something was up.
Playing in the NFL, I’ve been all over the country. When I think about the Palmetto State, I think about all the trees and how green it is. I love the trees. A lot of places don’t have that. In the fall, the trees are all different colors. Man, I love that.
Always a Gamecock
I love to come back (to South Carolina). It’s always great to come back home.
We’re Gamecocks. We carry that name with pride. People can say “you’re cocky,” but it’s a fine line between being cocky and being confident. That gives us our toughness.
Being at South Carolina helped me get ready for the NFL. Our coaches put us in a position to show scouts our talents. Whatever it was, they made sure we were in a position to make plays. To be a D-B (defensive back) here, you have to take pride in your craft.