One-on-one with Isiah Swann '20
Isiah Swann ’20 catalyzed a lockdown defensive effort last Saturday versus the College of the Holy Cross, hauling in three interceptions within the first half. Swann’s historic performance was the first of its kind since Sal Sciretto ’92 intercepted three passes in 1990. Dartmouth landed a 34-14 win over Holy Cross to give for a 2-0 record before Ivy League play begins this Saturday versus the University of Pennsylvania. The three interceptions give Swann four on the year, and netted him Football Championship Subdivision national defensive player of the week honors as well as his second consecutive Ivy League defensive player of the week award. I had the opportunity to sit down with the Arizona native to talk about the Holy Cross game and get deeper insight on him in general.
Take me through the first half against Holy Cross. What was it like to pick off three passes?
IS: My first pick came on the second play of the game. I dropped back to my zone, saw a receiver coming into my zone, saw the quarterback looking, and just timed it up. Thankfully, I caught the ball, and as I rolled to the ground, stayed with it. My second one, if you look at it on film, I stole one from Bun Straton ’19. It looked like he was jumping in to make the play, but I undercut him and caught the ball. The third one, right before half, [the quarterback] threw up a Hail Mary 15 yards short of the endzone, and I said, ‘Why not. Let me catch it.’
So when you see the long throw go up at the end of the first half, are you thinking “Could this be a third interception?”
IS: I see it in the air, and I realize where I am on the field. I’m like, “I’m not in the endzone, I don’t feel anybody near me, I might as well catch it, might as make it my third.”
Where would you rank Saturday’s game among the most memorable games you have played?
IS: This would probably be my third most memorable game. The most memorable for me would be the Yale University last year when we came back down 21-0. That game I’ll never forget; that was crazy. My pick six helped start that so I feel like I contributed to it. The second most memorable would be when we beat Princeton University last year. I really had a good connection with the seniors last year, and it was memorable how we sent them out. That game was crazy, and I’m glad we came out on top. Then probably this one because I have never had three interceptions in a game before.
How did you end up playing cornerback? Did you play any other positions growing up?
IS: In pee-wee ball, everyone wants to be running back. Everyone wants the ball, so I played running back. Then I got to high school. I had pretty good hands, so I tried out for receiver. I was receiver my freshman and sophomore year, and then I got up to varsity. My high school had a lot of really good athletes at receiver, and I figured I wouldn’t play as much as I would like to there, so I decided, “let me go ahead and try to cover these guys.” I flipped to corner and took off from there.
Do you enjoy playing at cornerback more now that you have played here for a while?
IS: I fell in love with corner. With my two years on varsity at corner, there’s no way I’d go back to receiver.
Can you tell me about your football experience growing up? When did you start playing? Did you always know you wanted to play at the college level?
IS: I’ve always loved football for as long as I can remember. I started playing flag when I was five years old. Two or three years of flag, then tackle from third grade on – I’ve had a football life. Then going up into high school, I didn’t really think about the opportunity to play in college until I got to varsity, and Dartmouth was actually the first school to start recruiting me. That’s when I thought, “Wow, I can really play at the D1 level.” The recruitment process started to take off; I got offers from most of the Ivy League and the academies. I took my visits, and I felt like this place was where I wanted to be for the next four years.
What drew you to Dartmouth originally?
IS: They were the first ones to email me about recruiting. I had no idea where Dartmouth was, I didn’t even know it was an Ivy League school. It was super weird. I did some research. I didn’t even think that would be a possibility for me in high school. They recruited me, I came up for my visit and I just loved everything about it: I loved the family atmosphere that they have. Every team can claim that they have a family atmosphere but Dartmouth truly is and feels like a family. The cold, it’s a little hard to adjust to that, but you try something new for four years. This is where I felt most comfortable going to school.
If you had to pick, what would you say you love most about playing football?
IS: I think I just love winning. I love winning, and when I contribute to the win it makes it so much more sweet. I just hate losing; I’m a very competitive person, and football is the sport where I can put that to use.
What does it mean to you to receive the FCS National Defensive Player of the Week award?
IS: It’s a huge honor. I think of all of the FCS teams out there, and I looked at some of the stats from the other FCS guys, and they put up some monster games. A player from Columbia had two and a half sacks, a forced fumble and they chose me, and I just think that’s a huge honor.
What drives you to keep going in football and training, week in and week out?
IS: Since I’ve been here for a while and I’m a couple of years in, I think I do it for my teammates. They’re my brothers, and I feel like [by] playing well, I do it for them. I want all of us to succeed as a team. That’s why I do it.
What is your typical training regimen on your own time?
IS: When I’m at home, strength and conditioning director Spencer Brown sends us a weightlifting program, so I follow that, and on top of that, I have a personal trainer, Kelvin Fisher. We just go through defensive back drills, cone drills, ball drills and stuff like that to keep my corner skills sharp for the season.
How do you spend your free time outside of football, academically and otherwise?
IS: I spend a good amount of time doing homework, doing readings for class. It takes me longer than I would like. If I really have nothing to do, I like to play video games. The new Spider-Man came out, Fortnite, anything that’s out. I’m a Playstation 4 guy.
What are your personal goals and team goals as you head into Ivy League play?
IS: Team goals, definitely to win out in Ivy [League] play. If we win out, then we have a championship, and that’s the main goal. Personal goals, do whatever I can do to help the team win. If an opportunity comes where I can intercept a ball, or bat down a pass or make a tackle, I want to minimize mistakes and do everything I can to help this team win.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.