A conversation about PRESSURE
Messiah Swinson is a kind-hearted soul who loves his mother and has a passion for exploring the world, traveling to its many wonderful places. The 6’8, 265 lb Tight End began his collegiate career playing in the SEC for the Missouri Tigers. He eats, sleeps, and breathes football, but the Senior Tight End has learned there’s more to life than football.
Coming into college undersized and one-dimensional, Messiah Swinson didn’t stand much of a chance in the SEC. However, his time in Missouri proved to be transformative, turning him into a multi-faceted and capable Tight End ready to showcase his full game at Arizona State University. Playing most of his snaps with his hand in the ground highlighted his initial flaw as a tight end coming out of High School.
Messiah, who played small high school football in New York, wasn’t prepared to block future first-round draft picks. He said, “Honestly, it was night and day my first two years in college. I wasn’t ready for that pace and physicality; it was a shock.” It would take time and growing pains for Swinson to adjust, but he eventually turned his finesse game into a physical.
Turning Weakness into Strength
Swinson has transformed himself into one of the best inline tight ends in the country, taking his physical style of play to Arizona State last year. He set the tone on the offensive line, something he never thought he’d be doing. “To be honest, to go from a receiving tight end to more of an all-around physical-style inline tight end shocked no one more than me,” says Messiah.
When recruited by coach Barry Odom out of High School, Messiah never thought he’d have to prove to NFL scouts that he’s a dynamic pass-catching threat saying, “I take pride in my ability to run block and protect the Quarterback, but I have the ability to put defenders through hell in the pass game as well. I look forward to getting that opportunity this year.”
Best Tight End Tandem In the Country
Arizona State had a tumultuous year last year with the untimely firing of head coach Herman Edwards and two NCAA violations. Arizona State University football was at a crossroads, leading to the hiring of coach Kenny Dillingham, a young innovative, disciplined head coach to lead the Sun Devils to greener pastures. Dillingham, known for use of tight ends, has two studs to start his ASU tenure off with, Messiah Swinson and Jalin Conyers, who form one of the nation’s top tight end duos.
The highly underrated tight end Messiah has found peace with where he is. Swinson, who went to Long Island Lutheran to play basketball and football, found most of his success on the football field while providing veteran leadership on the basketball court. Swinson dominated the field, albeit lesser talent.
Lessons of the SEC
“When I chose to play in the SEC, everyone thought I was crazy. I was a string bean, but I had to learn the game and prove to myself I could play at the highest level.” After starting his career with a torn ACL, Swinson, by his 3rd year, would find his place on the field. “I had to learn the game. The SEC didn’t just teach me football; it taught me life. I take that tough, hard-nosed mindset everywhere now. Not only on the field but off it.”
The Pressure of Corey “Armel” Swinson
Swinson, whose last name bears the burden of generations of Long Island greatness, has had to navigate through pressure his whole life. Under the strict microscope of his father, Corey “Armel” Swinson, Messiah felt the pressure of living up to his name and his father’s larger-than-life expectations. A massive figure standing tall and talented at 6’6, 300 plus pounds, who played his Colligate ball at Hampton University and ultimately took his talents to the NFL for a stint. A man with hands the size of two catchers’ gloves and arms and forearms the size of pickup trucks. “My dad was my hero; other than my mom, he was everything to me. I know he would be proud of me,” Messiah says, laughing. “He wouldn’t be happy I was playing football though,” Messiah added.
Corey, who suffered many injuries playing football, didn’t want the same for his son. He went as far as tossing the footballs out of the yard when he saw his son playing with it during basketball season. Messiah would add, “He really didn’t want me playing football, he just knew my friends played and didn’t want to keep me away from positive environments.”
Messiah Swinson VS Messiah Swinson
When asked about pressure, Messiah answered, “There is no one that can put more pressure on me than me. It’s me vs me. I know what I’m capable of, and there’s a certain standard I set for myself. Other than my older brother, I’m my biggest critic. I know what I expect from myself.”
Messiah’s father expected a lot from him from the moment he entered this world. Bestowing upon him the name Messiah would further cement his father’s expectations upon him before Messiah could lift his head, let alone crawl.
In Messiah’s hometown of Bay Shore, NY, his father’s name decorates the bridge under which he drives when he visits his mother. At the age of 13, he received a text from his father saying, ‘I’ll be there to pick him up after practice,’ That would be the last text he would receive from his Superman.
Messiah would leave practice to a parking lot void of his dad’s car. Unbothered, knowing his father worked a busy schedule and was sometimes late to pick him up, Messiah would call his dad. Usually, the ex-NFL defensive lineman would answer from his post as the head of security for the Copiague School District, though this time Messiah’s call attempts went unanswered.
The Ghost of Corey “Armel” Swinson
Thinking his father got stuck in a meeting, he would call his older cousin for a ride home, only to be met by tragedy when he arrived home. Corey “Armel” Swinson’s larger-than-life, normally energetic frame lay lifeless in the middle of the kitchen floor.
“My life changed; I never looked at my dad as human. He was a superhero to me and everyone around him. He was the biggest, baddest, funniest, most kind-hearted person you’ll ever meet, and he was gone.”
From this moment on, the pressure no longer came from his father; it came from everyone around who saw him as the next Corey Swinson. Leading Messiah to make the biggest and most important decision of his life at the time. “I had to leave Bay Shore to create my own identity. I wasn’t going to live in the shadows of anyone. I had to make my path,” says Messiah confidently.
Messiah, whose father worked in the Bay Shore school district for years, has his memory entrenched within the fabric and soul of the High School. It was time for Corey’s son to be his own man. To many people’s displeasure, Messiah left, making a decision that would change his life.
Creating His Own Path
“LuHi made me meet the standard I set for myself. When my father passed, I had to prove to myself that I can be my own person and walk in my shoes, placing my expectations upon myself,” Messiah says while sitting in front of his father’s old jerseys.
Sorting through them, looking at them with the amazement of a child, old film of his dad wrecking offensive linemen in his Hampton days plays in the background. You can see the admiration for his father in Messiah’s eyes.
In a moment of reflection, Messiah admits, “My only wish is that he could’ve gone through this process with me. The ‘should I stay or should I enter my name in the draft’ conversations, ‘which school should I go to’ conversations. He was a walking book of experiences and knowledge. Sometimes I wish he could tell me one more story.”
Pressure is a GIFT
Messiah’s work ethic shows through his elevated play on the field. He is at peace with himself and his game. Knowing this is his last year of eligibility brings a smile to Swinson’s face. “I’ve really put in the work to get where I am.” Swinson, when asked if he feels pressure to perform at a high level this year, chuckles. “Pressure is a blessing; I control what I can control. I’m in a blessed situation. From who I was when I first started till now speaks for itself. It’s all about taking advantage of the opportunities when given; hopefully, Jalin and I get a lot of opportunities.”
Messiah knows what real pressure looks like, and it’s not football. “I watched my mom raise me by herself and never waver. I lost friends to mental health and sickness. This game is a privilege; when we talk about pressure, there are levels to that conversation.”
Wise beyond his years, Messiah hopes to help at-risk youth when he stops playing. “I want to help people that didn’t have the same opportunities I had as a youth. I was blessed with such a strong and supportive village; a lot of others weren’t, and I’ve seen the effects of that firsthand. I want to and will do my part to help.”
Pressure is an Illusion
Pressure is often times an illusion, and Messiah Swinson, who’s had to deal with pressure from his father, his father’s legacy, his father’s friends, his family, and peers, is diligent enough to know that none of that matters. The only thing that matters to Messiah is meeting the expectations that he’s put on himself and no one else, and if you ask Messiah Swinson, that’s exactly what he’s been doing and will continue to do.
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