There was no drama. Swinney committed in March of 2014 and never wavered, despite interest from some of the top schools in the country. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Florida State, among others, continued to chase after him. Swinney, a former four-star prospect, didn’t care.
He’s a big believer in loyalty.
“I really don’t like drama like that, and loyalty’s a big thing to me, you know? Ole Miss showed me loyalty and kept coming at me hard, and that’s why I stayed with them,” he said.
Five months later, Ole Miss reciprocated with its own show of loyalty. In July, Swinney learned during what was originally scheduled to be a routine medical checkup that he needed surgery to repair a stress fracture in his leg. His true freshman season was over before it began.
But now he’s fully healthy, running as the No. 2 running back behind starter Akeem Judd in fall camp. Ole Miss will take on Florida State in Orlando, Fla., in two weeks to kick off its season, and Swinney is poised to take on a significant role for the Rebel offense. Junior Jordan Wilkins was ruled academically ineligible last week.
Swinney is the next man up.
“It’s time to go, man,” he said. “I’ve been saying it since I got back from my injury that it’s time to go. I’ve just been trying to get better.”
Swinney returned to the football field in the spring, and he said there was no hesitation in jumping back into the fold. The leg, he was told, wasn’t going anywhere. To worry would have been a pointless exercise.
“I’m good. I’m not worried about it,” Swinney said. “The injury really happened over a course of time. I went to get it checked out, and it was actually something worse than I thought. When I went to go see the doctor, he told me I had to have surgery. I just prayed to God and told Him it’s in His hands now.”
Ole Miss has strength in numbers at running back, with or without Wilkins. Behind Judd and Swinney are veteran Eugene Brazley and freshman D’Vaughn Pennamon. Pennamon is a four-star signee the Rebels added in February.
But Swinney could be the wildcard. Ole Miss was drawn to the 5-foot-9, 210-pound Sandy Creek (Ga.) product because of his playmaking ability. He rushed 321 times for 1,842 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in high school, after totaling 1,149 yards and 22 touchdowns on 137 carries as a junior.
“I think we can be the best running back group in the country, we’ve just got to get the opportunities and everything,” Swinney said. “It’s a good competition. I think our group, as a whole, we’re really good. We push each other to be the best in everything, and we show it in our play.
“With the young guys coming up and everything and the veteran guys, it just mixes real good. And we’ve got great leadership from the veterans, especially from Judd and Jordan coming from my group. They just teach me the ropes and everything. I think this team has the potential to be really, really special.”
And Swinney is willing to do whatever he can to help. He’s ready to go, an arrival a year and a half in the making.
“I’m very versatile. I can do anything — catch the ball out of the backfield, give you speed and power and I have quickness,” Swinney said. “I just think I have a lot to prove with my game. I’m starving. I haven’t played football in about a year and a half. I’m ready for it.
“I’ve got a lot to prove. I was the only running back they recruited. I feel like I have a lot to prove to those people that thought I was done and everything.”