D.J. Swearinger is a Houston Texan

USA TODAY Sports

We all expected "good" things from D.J. Swearinger when he arrived in Columbia in 2009. But did we expect "great" things? Well, whatever you expected, over four seasons at Carolina, greatness was what the heavy-hitting Safety from Greenwood brought to the field. And his reward is the 57th Overall pick (25th pick of the second round) of the 2013 NFL Draft - the first Gamecock to be selected, and the second South Carolinian - after Clemson WR and future Houston teammate DeAndre "Nuk" Hopkins.

Dayario Jamal Swearinger came to us as a consensus three star prospect. A former two-way star at Greenwood High School, and a Shrine Bowler (along with other future NFL Sandlappers such as Alshon Jeffery, Sam Montgomery and Justice Cunningham), he was originally committed to Tennessee before settling on South Carolina after the demise of Phil Fulmer from Rocky Top (Ed. - thank you again, Mike Hamilton).

A four year letterman at USC, Swearinger saw action in every game from his freshman through his senior season except one when he was suspended by the league [see below]; he was a starter 33 times. He finished his stellar Carolina career with 266 tackles (the majority of them solo), along with six INTs and three TD's while playing both free and strong safety (and sometimes lining up at CB). He was also a special teams beast.

After his 2012 campaign, he was named to the All-SEC second team by both the AP writers and coaches - a signal honor in a fourteen-team league that prides itself on defense - and was also invited to the Senior Bowl.

D.J.'s senior year was not without its controversies. First, there was the pass interference no-call at the end of the Vandy game on what likely-would-have-been a game-winning Commodore TD. Then there was the helmet-to-helmet hit he threw against a UAB WR that lead to a one-game suspension - the only time D.J. missed a game for the Garnet and Black. Then there were the three PF's against Arkansas - along with his 13 tackles [10 solo] and 69 yard INT for touchdown against the Hogs, too; remember when we didn't know whether he would be suspended or named player of the week - or both? (In fact, to the dismay of both John L. Smith and the pig-nose lady, Swearinger was named SEC co-Defensive Player of the Week and the Walter Camp Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week to boot! And in a rare instance of sanity from Birmingham, he wasn't suspended.)

And, of course, there was that taunting call against Clemson after he keelhauled Andre Ellington. Much like with the pick-6 against Arkansas (which simultaneously killed the Hogs while giving them a gift penalty yards), the play itself against Ellington was the coup de grace to the Tigers, but then the penalty allowed Clemmy to extend a key fourth quarter drive. Fortunately, nothing came of it for the Tigs.

But all that goes by the wayside when you consider Swearinger's heart. His physical stats are not impressive - he's just 5'11", and runs comparatively slow at a 4.6+/40. But he has always played full-tilt and Carolina fans have always loved the manner in which he pursues the ball with near-reckless abandon. Sidelined for 2012 spring camp with a persistent foot injury that seemed to dog him for the first half the season, he nevertheless never stopped attacking. He showed out against Michigan in the Outback Bowl with nine tackles, two pass break-ups and a forced fumble.

For many of us, the Vandy, Arkansas and Outback Bowl games - big as they were for D.J. - still won't compare to that gutsy performance against Mississippi State in 2011 - the same game in which Marcus Lattimore went down - when D.J. picked-off the Bulldogs' QB during a make-or-break fourth quarter drive to seal the USC victory (and to earn his first of two SEC co-Defensive Player of the Week Honors).

D.J. always played hard. He always played with heart. He vowed that he would not lose to Clemson and khe ept that pledge.

He will need to use his head in the NFL - since he comes to the league with a reputation as a grabber and maybe even a bit of a head-hunter. Notwithstanding that, I think we all expect to see great things out of D.J. in Houston - as he joins a long list of Carolina defensive backs in the NFL. Darryl Slater of the Charleston Post & Courier also writes that D.J. will get to play with his idol, Ed Reed, at Houston..

Congratulations, D.J., for being a great Gamecock, and good luck in your pro career!

***

(NB: Interestingly, Swearinger and Hopkins will be joining D.J's high school teammate Sam Montgomery of LSU, who was the third Sandlapper taken in the NFL Draft - all by Houston - and all three who know each other very well; and in fact played against each other in 2012. I wonder if that has ever happened before? And since USC beat Clemson, and Clemson beat LSU, and LSU beat USC - who will win the argument about whose team was the best?)

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