JM: It was so great to see you come back in 2021 after the 2020 season was cut short due to the pandemic. How do you reflect on your final season at Georgia Tech?
TS: I have a lot of thoughts regarding my final season. First and foremost, I got through it healthy, which was excellent. I look at it from a lot of different perspectives. It allowed me to get to a place where I earned myself an opportunity at the next level. I’ve signed a professional contract with the Tennessee Titans. I still have that chip on my shoulder because I know a lot of people feel like I didn’t finish my collegiate career on a high note. I’ve heard whispers about people talking about my progression and what have you. I don’t think I always had a chance to showcase the full range of my abilities because we struggled as a team overall. We struggled to win games and sometimes that can overshadow the performance. It’s tough when you’re losing. I hate losing. I want to win.
I’m ultimately thankful that I got through it healthy, and I’m excited to start a new journey with the Titans. I’m definitely going into the next level with a huge chip on my shoulder. I’m ready to move forward. I’m excited to prove myself while proving that I am exactly who I think I am as a football player.
JM: We’re super excited for you to have this opportunity. You’ve played some strong safety as well. You were versatile and moved all over the field at Georgia Tech. Which position do you see yourself predominantly playing going forward?
TS: I see myself playing a little bit of everything. It’s exactly what you said it is. I’m a versatile guy that can play multiple positions. I want to be a Swiss-army-knife that can play both inside and outside at the next level. I can play the safety position on the back end of a defense if need be. I’m going to play whatever the coaches need me to play. I’m looking forward to carving out a role or niche for myself. Whatever they decide is best for me with the goal of helping the team win games, that’s what I’m going to focus on.
JM: You had a solid workout at Georgia Tech’s Pro Day. You posted a 37 inch vertical. You ran the three-cone drill in 6.81 seconds. You had a great broad jump, too. Do you feel like you opened some eyes at your Pro Day?
TS: I think I opened some eyes, yes sir. I had a good showing overall. That’s the feedback I received. I wasn’t happy with my 40 time, though. That result didn’t reflect who I am as a player. Throughout my entire pre-draft training process, I was running around 4.46, maybe 4.50 flat. I was routinely clocking in around that time. The 40 was one of the last things we did at Pro Day and it ended up being a pretty long day. I feel like it impacted my result. Aside from that, a couple of other things didn’t go like I wanted them to do. I checked a lot of boxes overall, though. I went out there to compete. I stayed healthy and finished all of the drills. I was able to compete alongside my brothers one last time. My mindset was to check all of the boxes. I wanted to participate in every drill.
JM: You signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent, as you’ve already mentioned. How did that opportunity come about?
TS: That’s a funny story. It happened in a rather non-traditional way. It’s not like I spoke with Head Coach Mike Vrabel or anybody like that. The General Manager [Jon Robinson] came to a Georgia Tech practice sometime in the Spring, or early Fall camp. I was playing some nickel and I had a really good practice. I was stringing together several impressive practices and the Titans’ GM happened to be there in attendance. He made a positive comment to one of my coaches and asked them to pass it on to me.
That one little day at practice began sparking some interest. They kept up with me and followed me throughout the remainder of my career. They checked me out a couple of times during the season. They sent some scouts to our games. They saw me again at the NFLPA Bowl. We had an interview. One week or so before the draft, I received some feedback from them. They thought I had a chance to be a seventh-round draft pick. They didn’t have a pick in the seventh round, but I knew they were keeping me in mind in case they acquired one. They didn’t end up having that pick, and I knew they had interest in me as an undrafted free agent.
I believe they drafted two defensive backs [Theo Jackson and Roger McCreary] but they still ended up calling me after the draft. I’m an extremely competitive guy at the end of the day, so I wasn’t worried about who they drafted and what not. I just wanted an opportunity to showcase what I’m all about. I appreciated the relationship I built with the Titans throughout the process. It just felt like the right place for me.
JM: That’s a terrific story, and really highlights a unique relationship between yourself and the Titans. Were you in contact with any members of the Titans organization besides those chance meetings with General Manager Jon Robinson?
TS: Truthfully, no, not many. I had those conversations or whatever with Jon Robinson and I also interviewed with the area scout that attended Georgia Tech’s Pro Day.
JM: So you never even interviewed with secondary coach Anthony Midget, or safeties coach Scott Booker? No Zoom calls or anything?
TS: Nope, we never did a Zoom call, nor did I get up there for a Top 30 in-person visit or anything like that. The mutual interest was really born from that day when Jon Robinson attended my practice way back in the Spring or Fall. They had somebody follow up on me at practice, and they followed my progression throughout the season.
JM: That’s awesome and pretty unique. Your father Pat Swilling is a legend at Georgia Tech, and he had an incredible NFL career as well. What’s the biggest lesson he’s ever taught you?
TS: He taught me how to be a pro at a young age. He taught me how to show up and outwork guys. I know when and when not to do certain things because of his lessons. I certainly inherited his football I.Q. and whatnot. My father had a very successful career in the NFL, and now he’s an extremely successful real estate agent. He does everything from commercial, to multi-family, residential, things of that nature.
He could have retired 10 years ago if he wanted to but he still wakes up at 5:00 a.m. every morning ready to attack the day. He gets a workout in and then gets his day started (laughs). He works hard not only for his kids and my generation, but for his kids’ kids’ kids. He installed that blue collar type of work ethic in me. We’ve always been that type of family.
I think that gets overlooked sometimes. I’m the son of somebody that played in the league. We’re a wealthy family but that doesn’t mean I haven’t adopted that same work ethic. Success breeds success and I want to keep that going for our family. My history speaks for itself. I had a highly decorated high school career. We didn’t win any Bowl games or college, and I was never named an All-American or anything like that. I have that chip on my shoulder, man. I had some goals set that I didn’t get to achieve. I didn’t hear my name called during the draft. I’m still grinding and getting it out the mud. It’s up to me now. That’s where my mentality is at. I get to steer my own boat and push myself in whichever direction I choose. That’s the biggest thing for me.
JM: I absolutely love that. I’m not sure how well you know Tennessee’s roster, but are there any teammates you’re excited to meet in person and learn from?
TS: I can’t wait to meet all of the guys and get around them, but Kristian Fulton is actually one of my closest friends. We’ve known each other for more than 10 years now. I’m about to text you a few photos and Fulton and I. We played on the same AAU basketball team that my father actually coached when we were much, much younger (laughs). He went to my rival high school at Archbishop Rummel. We played in the same district. We’ve kept in contact over the years. We’ve played a bunch together. We’ve worked out together. We’ve pretty much done everything together.
I called him after I signed with the Titans. He was so excited for me. We’re going to be teammates again. He was in New Orleans at the time and he came to see my family after we got the news. We all celebrated and became very happy because we have a tight-knit family. We’re very close with our relatives and those who know our family. We look out for everybody and vice versa. I’m excited to play alongside and learn from Fulton, and other guys such as Kevin Byard, Elijah Molden, Buster Skrine, Roger McCreary and everybody else up there. I don’t wanna leave any names out because they have a terrific group of defensive backs. I’m excited to learn from those guys.
I feel like my entire time in high school and college, especially up to this point, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching myself how to play the position. I didn’t have anybody at any level that was a bit older than me that I could lean on. I didn’t have that prime example of how to get there or somebody I could model my game after. I want to become that guy for my teammates at Georgia Tech now. I want to set an example they can follow as they pursue their pro dreams. I want to show them how they can get an opportunity at the next level. If I can successfully lay that foundation down and show them how it works, they can learn from what I’ve done and then they can strive for better things and go get drafted.
JM: We appreciate that you want to serve as a positive example for the next generation. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what kind of impression does Tre Swilling hope to leave on the Titans over these next few months?
TS: I’m going to showcase a strong willingness to learn and improve my game. I’m excited to begin building connections with my teammates. I’m going to put myself in a position to compete on a daily basis. I want to help the team out in whichever way possible. It typically initially starts by earning a limited role and it gradually grows from there. I want to become a starter on special teams before hoping to get on the field in certain packages. I hope to eventually become a starter within the organization. I have very high expectations for myself.
Editor’s note: Interview was conducted in early May