HAMPTON — Brian Swain said the past 10 days have been kind of a blur, which is understandable when you go from freshman walk-on scout teamer to starting quarterback.
Swain is as surprised as anyone that he's taking snaps for
"We only had three games left," Swain said. "I figured I'd just keep working hard the rest of the season, then in the offseason work as hard as I can and give myself a chance for next season. But the coaches gave me a chance. I thought I was going to redshirt."
In the Pirates' 20-10 loss at Howard, Swain rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown, and completed 13 of 23 passes for 91 yards. He did so without the Pirates' most potent weapon of late, running back Jonathan Schwartz, who was sidelined by a hamstring pull.
"I thought he played well for his first college game," HU coach Donovan Rose said. "He and (Travis) Champion will get reps this week in practice. I don't know how much he'll play, but I know he's going to play."
Swain's unlikely journey from southwest Texas to starting quarterback at HU in a matter of months is a testament to luck, timing and family connections.
Swain was a three-year starting quarterback at John B. Alexander High in Laredo, Texas, which is two hours southwest of San Antonio and roughly 15 minutes from the Mexican border. He is all over the Texas high school record book — third in career pass attempts (1,237), fifth in career pass completions (739), 10th in career passing yards (9,754).
He led Alexander to a 12-1 record as a senior and the third round of the 5A playoffs, the state's largest classification.
For all of that, he received exactly zero recruiting interest. He received some letters and questionnaires, "but I guess when they saw how big I was, they weren't interested," he said.
"We don't draw a lot of interest, no matter how good you are," said Alexander coach Joel Lopez, who runs a pass-first, spread offense. "It's tough for kids to get noticed down here. Kids settle for Division II or Division III schools, if they get any interest at all. With all the
Swain began to come to grips with the idea that his football career was over. He considered attending school in the area, because his paternal grandmother lives in Norfolk and he wanted to see her more often.
But his father, named Brian as well, was a college teammate of new Hampton offensive coordinator Earnest Wilson at Texas Tech. Wilson saw video of Swain and called him in June. Hampton had no athletic scholarships available, but he invited Swain to walk on if he was interested.
Swain showed up the first week of practice and was promptly put on the scout team. He was listed as the fifth-string quarterback.
As the Pirates struggled at the position, with injuries to Champion and inconsistency from junior college transfer Najee Tyler and another true freshman, J.J. Williamson, Swain simply went about his business of trying to mimic the upcoming opponents' offense.
"He gave our defense fits," Rose said. "They couldn't tackle him, couldn't catch him. He's a really good athlete. I finally said, let's find a way to get him on the field."
Swain said the coaches informed him the Wednesday prior to the Howard game that he would start. Wilson and the staff installed a series of plays for Swain — some option read running plays, as well as the offense's regular pass plays.
Swain said the initial nervousness of his first college game disappeared after the first play.
"I said, OK, I've got that off my chest," he said. "But it wasn't about me playing my first college game. They put me out there to try and help them win."
Swain is more elusive than straight-ahead fast, though he seems to scoot as quickly as necessary. On his 33-yard touchdown run, the Pirates caught Howard in a blitz. He got to the perimeter, made one defender miss "and I just ran as fast as I could," he said.
"I always coached my quarterbacks not to run the ball and if you see somebody, get down," Lopez said. "Quarterbacks, to me, are hard to come by. But Brian, bless his heart, he loved to run the football."
Lopez knows the leap that Swain made from high school to Division I football, but said that he wasn't surprised by his former player's performance.
"It didn't surprise me," Lopez said. "He doesn't know how small he is. He just knows that he can play football. And he can."
Wilson has said that quarterbacks need not be tall to run his system, that it's more about decision making and distributing the ball. Swain said that because he can't see over linemen, he looks for passing lanes.
"As I get more comfortable with the offense, I know where receivers are supposed to be," he said. "I'm anticipating where they are and I know to get them the ball in certain spots."
Swain's goal the rest of the season and into the winter: Demonstrate enough to earn a scholarship. Has he spoken to the coaches about a scholarship yet?