You might not look at Arkansas senior center Travis Swanson and think nimble-footed athlete right away, but that's exactly what he is per one teammate.
In fact, senior defensive end Chris Smith thinks Swanson (6-5, 315) might be a candidate for ABC's hit series Dancing with the Stars or maybe even The Bachelor.
"Travis is a big man, but so light on his feet and that's what makes him the best center in the country," Smith said. "He's aggressive and mean on the field, but a gentlemen off of it. Makes great grades, looks great in his suit. He'd be perfect for one of those reality shows like Dancing with the Stars or The Bachelor. I mean just look at him – he's an All-American center and the All-American boy."
Swanson is for sure the preseason first-team All-SEC center, a second-team Athlon All-American, one of 44 candidates for the 2013 Rimington Trophy candidate, which is awarded to the most outstanding center in college football.
He has embraced the program of new strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert.
"I feel the lightest I have ever felt in my life even though I am the heaviest at I have ever been in my life at 315," Swanson said. "I feel better now than I did when I first got here."
Swanson has started all 38 games of his college career after redshirting as a true freshman.
"I have been very privileged to have the past four years or five years," Swanson said. "It's been a wild ride with real highs and real lows. That's just how life is. I never take it for granted because I know that something could happen in five minutes and it would be all taken away from you."
Arkansas will open practice on Monday with new head coach Bret Bielema taking over after last season's 4-8 debacle under John L. Smith – the fill in for the ousted Bobby Petrino.
The Razorbacks - who all but signee Melvinson Hartfield (expected Wednesday) in camp - will have closed practices for at least the first week of camp.
Swanson has been on board with Bielema from day one.
"He is a very passionate person, a great coach who loves the game and he has shown that to us," Swanson said. "He is just overall a great individual."
Swanson says discipline is back within the Arkansas program.
"He wants everything to be perfect," Swanson said. "Especially in practice or if you do something wrong or if he feels like you could do something better, he is going to let you know and it is not necessarily in a negative way, but in a way to help you."
Swanson loves the mindset and philosophy that Bielema and his staff have brought to Arkansas.
"It's an exciting time not only for us, but for the state of Arkansas actually having a stable program in place," Swanson said. "We went into the spring excited and we have had a great summer and now coming out of it into fall camp. There is a ton of emotion and energy headed into the season."
He is also excited about having a more balanced offense.
"I think we are going to be more balanced offensively and that will open up more things schematically that you maybe didn't have in the past," Swanson said.
Swanson has high hopes for an offensive line that currently has a first team of guard Brey Cook and Mitch Smothers and tackles Grady Ollison and David Hurd joining him.
"I think we are going to get everything right," Swanson said. "I think we are going to camp as a while offensive line and work out the kinks to be right where we need to be when the season starts."
Swanson did give some thought to turning pro after his junior season, but opted to play at Arkansas for one more season.
"I think it was more of a curiosity thing," Swanson said. "I didn't want to wake up six years from now and say ‘what if?' Ninety-five percent of me knew I was going to come back, but I was just curious how that whole process worked."
He does believe that Arkansas will be better this season because of what happened to it last season.
"Things happen for a reason," Swanson said. "You learn to handle adversity. There is a reason that happened. There is no reason for me to get stressful over it…We are just ready to close the book on the past and look forward to the future."
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