There’s one word that can be ascribed to virtually every successful athlete: dedication.
The hours spent honing the craft, conditioning muscles, fueling the body, studying opponents and schemes all require a special level of commitment above and beyond mere athletic gifts.
The great ones all have dedication in spades.
Will Swanson isn’t an all-time great. That statement, while coming across rather harsh, is technically true. But it’s also not entirely fair. Swanson is just a high school senior at Papillion-LaVista South. And before June of 2019, Swanson didn’t hold any D-I offers.
Following the 2018 season, Swanson set about changing that. Swanson’s Titans had just finished a 5-4 season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012. As a tight end, he’d hauled in just nine passes, gaining 107 yards. He had to get bigger and faster.
“Halloween is when I really started nutritioning,” Swanson said. A big bowl of individually wrapped candies wasn’t in the plan. His head coach, Tim Clemenger, remembers seeing the change.
“I used to have lunch duty. I would walk around and see kids eating pizza and cheeseburgers,” Clemenger said. “Every time I passed Will’s table, he always had steak and pasta and chicken breasts and vegetables every single day.”
“I ate, I don’t know how many…tons of steaks,” Swanson said. But it wasn’t just about eating. Swanson hit the weight room hard, and it was paying off.
“By Christmas, I had gone from 195, 200 pounds to, like, 235. I put on a lot of weight. All my maxes went through the roof,” Swanson said. But the weight wasn’t slowing him down. The extra muscle had increased his speed. When May came around, it was time to show off. The camp circuit was beginning.
The Mega Camp at Lindenwood, in St. Charles, Missouri is where Swanson first showed off his winter gains. Afterward, five schools offered him scholarships, including two FBS schools: Kent State and Wyoming.
Clemenger remembers calling Swanson on the road to ask him what had happened. When Swanson said he’d run his 40-yard dash in under 4.7 seconds, Clemenger knew exactly what had happened.
“The combination of being 6’5”, 240, running a 4.6-something, and getting nasty,” Clemenger said. The “getting nasty” refers to where Swanson projects at the next level. He’s primarily a blocking tight end.
And the offers for Swanson weren’t through yet.
Following the Lindenwood camp, Swanson drove to Manhattan, Kansas, for a camp at Kansas State. It was there he made a big impression.
“He competed with other guys that K-State was interested in — d-linemen, linebackers that they felt good about,” Clemenger said. “And he was kicking their butt, blocking and catching balls over them and stuff.”
Papio South’s Will Swanson had one NAIA offer before this weekend. Now he has eight total, including six from Division I schools and one from a Power Five program.
Here’s the latest in his recruitment.
— NebHSRecruiting (@NEBHSRecruits) June 4, 2019
Chris Klieman had just taken over as the head coach at Kansas State after a run of four FCS national championships in five years at North Dakota State. He saw something in Swanson, a solid blocking tight end with a great frame to fit in with a power running scheme. That’s how Swanson got his first scholarship offer from a Power 5 school. Ultimately, it was the last one he entertained.
“I didn’t go to any camps after that because I was super excited about Kansas State,” Swanson said. “I went for another visit, and I ended up committing at that visit.”
Swanson was so excited that he couldn’t wait a full year to get on campus in Manhattan. Back at home, he decided to graduate early so he could enroll at Kansas State in January. But it meant cramming in two semesters worth of classes into one. Now, halfway through that jammed semester, Swanson is still cruising. He says school is going fine, stopping short of saying it’s easy for him, though his face says it must be.
“It just shows his commitment to Kansas State,” Clemenger said. “It shows he’s willing to do things to accomplish his goals.”
Will Swanson isn’t an all-time great. He doesn’t hold any state records. He’s never been named all-state. But there should be a caveat added here. He’s not an all-time great yet. Time will tell if his athletic talents can take him to elite levels. But if his dedication is any indicator, he might just make it.
Don’t miss Will Swanson and Papillion-La Vista South take on Omaha North on Friday, October 4th on GameTime at 7pm and streaming LIVE on YurView.com