Passion helps sophomore to breakout season

Published 9:30 pm Wednesday, December 23, 2009

As a kid, Javae Swindle preferred watching football on TV to cartoons.

Swindle’s passion for and approach to the game hasn’t changed—for better or worse.

“He approaches games like a kid at Christmas,” coach Brad Abbott said about his 5’5” sophomore running back.

Abbott said he would rather Swindle adopt a more businesslike demeanor, and defenses beware if an improved approach leads to more productivity.

Swindle this season rushed for a county-best 1,179 yards on 177 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per carry, and 14 touchdowns, leading the Panthers to a 5-5 regular season record and their seventh consecutive playoff appearance and earning The Clanton Advertiser’s Player of the Year honor.

Jemison extending that playoff streak was in doubt before the season because of heavy losses to graduation, but then Swindle emerged to carry the load.

Abbott expected Swindle to be effective running the football, but Swindle surprised his coach by turning a weakness, catching passes, into a strength (Swindle tied teammate Patrick Sims for the most receptions by a county player with 28, for 349 yards and three touchdowns).

Swindle’s recognition of a weakness and willingness to improve gives Abbott hope that Swindle could become a more complete player—a scary thought for opponents that had to account for Swindle whether he was running the football, lining up at quarterback, catching passes, playing cornerback, returning kicks or returning punts.

What could he improve on?

“I want to get bigger, try for a better 40 time and become more of a punishing back instead of someone that’s just always juking,” Swindle said.

Don’t doubt him.

“He’ll run in between the tackles,” Abbott said. “He works hard in the weight room, so I think he can become that kind of guy.”