Starting this week, Garnet Report will publish a timeline every Thursday leading up to the NFL Draft appreciating the careers of USC’s outgoing football players. We begin with D.J. Swearinger.
Looking back at his time at South Carolina, it’s impossible to measure the impact of D.J. Swearinger. His on-the-field talents–244 career tackles, seven interceptions, 21 pass breakups, six forced fumbles–made him an asset on the Gamecock defense each of the past four seasons, but his presence, his leadership, his ability to mentor others, and his demeanor both on and off the field helped change the culture of South Carolina football–similar to how a certain number three pick in the 1984 NBA Draft changed the fortunes of the Chicago Bulls forever.
One of the more colorful characters in rememberable USC football history, Swearinger became known for the gold caps he wore on his teeth every game, the bone-crushing hits he delivered, his knack of making plays precisely when his team needed them, and the yellow flags he regularly drew when his intensity got the best of him.
A leader in every sense of the word, the safety from Greenwood, SC quickly became a key component to USC’s top-notch defense. His work ethic on the practice fields and his never-back-down mindset set the tone for the Gamecocks’ newfound success, while his guidance of young players like TJ Gurley set a clear standard for future Gamecocks to aspire toward.
While South Carolina football prepares for life without the dynamic safety next season, here at Garnet Report we’re taking time to appreciate some of the key moments in his collegiate career.
November 23, 2008. D.J. Swearinger, a three-star safety out of Greenwood High School in Greenwood, SC, commits to South Carolina. As a two-way starter his senior year, Swearinger rushed for 904 yards and 12 touchdowns as a quarterback; caught 20 passes for 210 yards as a receiver; and recorded 77 tackles, eight pass breakups, and two fumbles as a safety for the Eagles.
October 9, 2010. In his first career start, Swearinger records a team-leading and career-best nine tackles in a 35-21 victory over no. 1 Alabama in Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks held a Crimson Tide rushing attack that included Heisman winner Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to 36 yards. Later on in his career, Swearinger would point to this game as the one that set the tone for his career.
November 13, 2010. Swearinger gets his first start at strong safety against Florida. In the 36-14 SEC East clinching win over the Gators in the Swamp, the sophomore records six tackles and a pass-breakup.
November 20, 2010. Swearinger grabs his first collegiate touchdown with a 22-yard interception return in the second quarter of a 69-24 route of Troy. The score would put the Gamecocks up 49-7 with 2:36 remaining in the half. Swearinger would finish the game with five tackles.
October 15, 2011. Arguably Swearinger’s best game comes in a 14-12 victory against Mississippi State in Starkville, where he racks up 12 tackles and seals the game with an interception of Bulldog quarterback Tyler Russell with 1:45 left in the game. The performance would earn him the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week award.
January 2, 2012. Swearinger helps South Carolina ring in the new year with a 30-13 blowout of no. 20 Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Down 13-9 with Nebraska threatening to score at the South Carolina eight-yard line, Swearinger delivers a powerful blow to Cornhusker runningback Ameer Abdullah, forcing a crucial fumble that the Gamecocks would recover at the fifteen-yard line. Swearinger would finish the day with seven solo tackles.
November 10, 2012. Swearinger racks up 13 tackles and returns an interception 69 yards for a touchdown as the Gamecocks defeat Arkansas 38-20 in Williams-Brice Stadium. The performance earns him the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week award as well as the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week honor.
November 24, 2012. Swearinger follows through on the promise he made when he committed to South Carolina that he would never lose to Clemson, leading the Gamecocks to a 27-17 win in Memorial Stadium. His five tackles in the game give him 40 tackles in the past four games. His hit on Andre Ellington and the subsequent penalty he earned for flexing in front of the grounded running back remain a symbol of South Carolina’s dominance in Death Valley that night.
January 1, 2013. In his last game as a Gamecock, the senior safety records nine tackles, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble to lead South Carolina to a 33-28 Outback Bowl victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
Garnet Report’s appreciation will continue next Thursday with a look at Devin Taylor.