Swinney dejected but not through
Break the school record and lead the 13-team Northern Nevada League by rushing for two season’s worth of yards – 2,054 – and one would think that Nevada coach Chris Ault and Cal coach Jeff Tedford would have made extra skiing trips into the Sierra to recruit the Viking.
But South Tahoe High’s Grant Swinney is five inches shy of 6 feet.
If size wasn’t a factor, then maybe the recruiters got so distracted by the allure of Lake Tahoe, that they never found Viking Bowl between the pines.
Given the history of colleges recruiting in the Sierra, the senior running back probably wouldn’t have been any more known had he rushed for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns.
While less accomplished seniors such as Reno tight end Wes Evans and Hug running back Mitchell Moore inked scholarships to Arizona State and Weber State, respectively, Swinney’s mailbox remained empty and phone silent.
“Grant’s season should have turned some heads, but when you get into it and the investment, there are just so many kids. Ninety percent of the kids who walk onto campus are MVPs and all-league players,” said Dar Swinney, Grant’s dad. “There are not as many scholarships out there as people think. As one coach told us, they have so many kids to choose from they are saving the scholarships for best of the best.”
Still, Grant was disappointed.
“I knew it was going to be tough because of my size and the whole package they want,” Grant said. “I was disappointed, but it’s not the end. There are other options.
Instead of being the recruited, Grant became the recruiter.
A trip to Southern California opened Grant’s eyes to a college that offered more than academics and football – Santa Barbara City College. The seaside campus offers plenty of diversions to ease the stress of planning for a future. And like Lake Tahoe, it’s easy on the eyes.
“It looks like a fun place to go to school,” Grant said. “This is about how much heart I have. I know size isn’t everything. Hopefully this will work out and I’ll get to play football.
Former Nevada coach Jeff Tisdel of Sierra College in Rocklin expressed lukewarm interest in Grant earlier this spring, but Swinney decided that he could find a better opportunity elsewhere.
“Sierra has a winning program and there are so many guys coming there because of that,” Dar said. “And they didn’t seem real receptive to small backs.
“For now, he wants to keep the spark alive and keep playing football. He’s enjoyed football far too many years to not want to give it a try in college.”
Ault and his Wolf Pack staff gave Swinney about as much attention as a kindergartner gives their teacher. The Pack didn’t even call on one of its most respected alums – STHS assistant coach Eric Beavers – to encourage Grant to walk on at Nevada. Beavers was a star quarterback for the Pack in the mid-1980s.
“Eric said he could arrange that, he’d welcome him to walk on, but there were no guarantees when you do that,” Dar Swinney said.
Swinney surpassed the 100-yard barrier in 10 of the Vikings’ 11 games, breaking down defenses with unrelenting leg drive and that rare ability to change directions at the right time. Any questions about his durability were answered as the season wore on. STHS coach Todd McIntyre increased his workload over the second half of the season. Despite facing tougher competition, Swinney actually rushed for more yards in the final five games than he did in the first six.
“Schools are real concerned about injuries, durability,” Grant said. “But that’s never been one of my problems. I didn’t miss a game in high school.”
In his final game in blue and gold, Swinney rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in a 21-14 loss to eventual state champion Reno.
The Huskies knew where the ball was going on that snowy and slick afternoon, but Swinney was up to the challenge.
When you’re consistently being overlooked because of your size, what’s one more challenge?