Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Swafford, Foreman bound for UT

From Rev. Ricardo Dorcean



KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett’s Malik Foreman said receiving a football scholarship offer from the University of Tennessee in late December was like “Christmas, birthdays, everything” all rolled into one.

A roomful of coaches, family and friends gathered at Dobyns-Bennett’s Alumni Field House Wednesday afternoon to belatedly share his elation.

Foreman, who started out playing wide receiver and defensive back for the Indians and ended up leading D-B to the state quarterfinals at quarterback, signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Vols next fall.
Earlier in the day, Volunteer High School observed its first-ever Division I football scholarship when offensive lineman Conner Trent signed to play for Middle Tennessee State.

Upstairs at Dobyns-Bennett’s “Taj Mahal” overlooking J. Fred Johnson Stadium, ceremonies were conducted for seven college-bound athletes, including five football players.

It was a big deal for all. In Foreman’s case, it was a Big Orange Deal.

“I’’d been watching UT football ever since I was a little kid. It has always been my dream to play there. So when they offered I just jumped right on it,” said Foreman, who de-committed from Vanderbilt in order to accept Tennessee’s bid.
Also recognized Wednesday was Devaun Swafford, who will enroll at Tennessee next fall. Swafford has been promised a football scholarship as part of the 2014 recruiting class, possibly sooner.

Swafford was working out with Foreman when UT running backs coach Jay Graham called the D-B field house. Graham is the lone Derek Dooley staffer retained by new Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.

“It came out of nowhere. He offered us both. He offered me a gray shirt and he offered (Foreman) a full scholarship. It was pretty exciting,” said Swafford, who received offers from seven NCAA Football Championship Series programs, including Furman, Liberty and Tennessee-Chattanooga.

During the 2012 season, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Foreman rushed for 1,269 yards and 17 touchdowns, also passing for 464 yards and four scores. He also had 14 catches for 278 yards and four TDs.

The Indians MVP and Big 8 Player of the Year had three punt returns for touchdowns and returned one kickoff for a score. He could show up as a either a defensive back or receiver at UT. He had six interceptions, seven pass breakups and forced seven fumbles for the Indians in 2012.

The 5-11, 176-pound Swafford rushed for 1,242 yards and 26 touchdowns as a running back. He had 16 pass receptions for 289 yards and four TDs. As a defensive back, he garnered Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year honors with 125 tackles, two pass breakups and five interceptions.

D-B coach Graham Clark noted that Tennessee showed no interest in either player until several weeks after Foreman had committed to Vanderbilt. Foreman was unmoved.

After Dooley’s departure, however, it quickly became obvious that positive changes were afoot in Knoxville. Finding a way to keep Foreman and Swafford on the same team was a smart recruiting move on Tennessee’s part, Clark said.

“They’re best friends. They’re workout partners. You’ll come down here on a Sunday afternoon and you’ll see them down in the stadium. I don’t know which one of them has to climb the fence,” quipped Clark.

Dobyns-Bennett offensive lineman Thomas Edwards was certainly impressed by the new shade of orange. He said he turned down opportunities FCS programs including Tennessee-Chattanooga and Austin Peay in order to join Tennessee next fall as a preferred walk-on. He’ll get a chance to compete for a scholarship as part of the squad.

Another big man having a big day Wednesday was Volunteer’s Trent, a surefooted offensive and defensive lineman who made a powerful impression on several Indians during the Falcons’ otherwise ill-fated Big 8 game at D-B last fall.
Trent’s signing ceremony was moved to the gymnasium due to testing in the library. The change of venue accommodated a significant contingent of appreciative Volunteer students in addition to coaches, family and friends.

“I always felt like I’d have the opportunity to play somewhere. I’m just excited about the opportunity and blessed,” said the 6-5, 300-pound Trent, who was courted by several schools, including Appalachian State.

The youngster’s early commitment to the Blue Raiders never wavered.

“No way. They were after me from the spring time. I want to go somewhere I’m wanted and they wanted me the most and I feel like that’s the place I want to be,” said Trent, who said all the recent media focus on Appalachian State alumnus Daniel Kilgore has motivated him to continue excelling.

“Every kid’s dream is to play in the NFL and if he did it, I figure I have just as good a chance. Right now I just need to focus on playing college football and getting stronger for that,” Trent said.

Other Dobyns-Bennett football players participating in Wednesday's signing ceremony included 6-2, 250-pound defensive lineman Trevor Gilliam, who'll play Division II ball for the University of Charleston (WVa.) and 6-3, 300-pound defensive lineman Jacob Weisman, who'll play for Division III Maryville College.