UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Swan returns to Badger sidelines

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Two years ago, Luke Swan was a cast member of a reality-based cable series hosted by Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame wide receiver known to his Dallas Cowboys teammates as the "Playmaker."

That was the last time Swan, a former Badger walk-on and team captain, was on a football field until this spring when he joined the UW coaching staff as an offensive graduate assistant coach.

What prompted him to leave the business world - where he was working for M3 Insurance - for a low-paying internship with few or no guarantees of future employment? What brought him back?

 "It's been something that I've known since I was a player,'' said Swan, the 26-year-old Fennimore native. "I've had this desire to stay with football. It's my passion. I love it.''

But it wasn't as easy as that.

Some things had to fall into place.

The Badgers had an opening for a grad assistant when Mark Haering returned to Colorado. Haering was an anomaly. He was in his 40s and had been head high school coach in Pueblo for 12 years.

Ben Strickland, meanwhile, is beginning his second year as a GA on defense. Strickland and Swan are not strangers. They were former walk-ons at Wisconsin, and captains on the 2007 team.

The opportunity for Swan to continue his education in the UW graduate school with an eye on athletic administration was certainly appealing. But he still had a tough decision to make.

"It's something I definitely took very seriously,'' he said. "Not making the kind of money you'd make, being newly married and having just bought a condo, I took two or three weeks to think through it.  My wife Ashley is working full-time and that definitely helps. She's definitely making a commitment.''

In the end, he had to follow his heart. "Knowing that I wanted to do something in my life that I'm passionate about,'' Swan said. "I enjoy the interaction with athletes and this period of four or five years (in college) is such a good growing time in their life to get off on the right path.

"That really kind of drew me towards coaching - along with the excitement of football. It's what I know. It's what I've done. And it's what I enjoy. I'll be starting by working with the wide receivers. But I'm hoping to get a broad scope of everything and experience multiple facets of the offense.''

There was some understandable anxiety in the transition.

"The first couple of days of practice I felt like a freshman just kind of figuring out my role and how to be good at what I do on the practice field,'' Swan said. "Relationships are completely different. As a coach, it's much more about seeing the big picture, too, and how everything fits together.''

As a gritty UW wide receiver, Swan showed the ability to catch the ball in a crowd and over the middle. As a junior, he had 35 receptions and five touchdowns. As a senior, he had 25 catches through the first six games before a severe hamstring injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Swan had a try-out with the Kansas City Chiefs. But his best shot at making an NFL roster came through his participation on "4th and Long'' - which aired on the Spike network in the spring of 2009.

Irvin, the focal point, was flanked by his assistants, Bill Bates and Joe Avezzano. Swan was one of 12 prospects vying for a spot on the roster of the Dallas Cowboys. It was all filmed in the Cotton Bowl.

The premise: six receivers challenging six defensive backs in a variety of drills and competitions. One player was cut every show. Swan was cut the fourth week after sustaining another leg injury.

What did he take away from the experience?

"I learned little things from each of the different coaches,'' said Swan, noting that Jerry Rice was among the guest counselors. "He gave some insights on the receiver position that were unique.''

In general, Swan observed how Irvin, Bates and Avezzano meshed and handled the different personalities. In turn, he asked himself, "How would I have handled that coaching situation?''

What it did was expand his frame of reference in football. And now he's hoping to widen that picture for others. "It's absolutely exciting,'' Swan said, "to find an occupation - something you have a passion for - that can make a difference in somebody else's life.'' As it has his.

1 Comment

This is a boon for the Badgers. Luke Swan is a winner! Great player, career cut short when he would really have shown what he could do. I think he will be a superb addition, and a first rate coach, should he stay with it.
Excellent News!