Former Sam Houston defensive back Dax Swanson became the fourth Bearkat to earn a Super Bowl ring as a member of the New England Patriots.
The All-American and two-time All-Southland Conference player who helped lead Sam Houston to back-to-back Southland Conference titles and FCS National Championship game appearances in 2011 and 2012 has spent the 2014 season as a member of the New England Patriots practice squad.
He joins George Wright, Mike Nelms and Greg Studdard in that elite group.
Wright received his ring after the Colts defeated the Cowboys in Super Bowl V. Nelms set a Super Bowl record for most punt returns as the Redskins beat Miami in Super Bowl XVII. John Solomon earned a ring as a member of the Packers who topped New England in Super Bowl XXXI.
Like many fans, Swanson would have called for a handoff to Marshawn Lynch on the Seattle Seahawks’ final offensive play of Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday.
“I was shocked,” Swanson said. “I think they thought we would expect that and there wasn’t that much time left. I don’t know why (they passed it). I think I would have tried to run it if I was the offensive coordinator. They didn’t and we made them pay for it.”
Swanson’s NFL journey has been precarious at times since he finished his collegiate career with 14 interceptions, which is the most in Sam Houston State football history.
After going undrafted in 2013, Swanson was signed by the Indianapolis Colts and then released later in the season. He spent the rest of the season on the San Francisco 49ers practice squad.
Although he didn’t know it at the time, that’s when his preparation for Super Bowl XLIX began. During the Patriots’ preparation for the Seahawks, Swanson was often tasked with playing the role of Seattle’s All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
He began studying Sherman during his time with the 49ers, as the teams met three times during the 2013 season.
“I was kind of simulating him and trying to show how he would play certain things,” Swanson said. “From San Francisco last year, I kind of knew how he played and the techniques he used. That wasn’t difficult.”
Not being able to play in actual games has been difficult for Swanson. Every week he prepares as if he is going to play but doesn’t get to suit up on game day.
Studying the likes of Sherman and being a teammate of cornerback Darrelle Revis has helped Swanson develop further as a player, but he is still waiting for his chance to show what he can do in a game situation.
“It’s kind of weird because I’ve never been in that position,” Swanson said. “It’s just a time for me to better myself and better my game. It’s not bad at all. I’ve learned a lot about the NFL.”
On Sunday, he learned what it feels like to win the Super Bowl. After Patriots rookie safety Malcolm Butler intercepted a pass from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to give New England the Super Bowl XLIX victory, mayhem broke out on New England’s sideline.
Swanson said he never lost faith in his teammates, even after Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse made an acrobatic catch to set Seattle up with a first–and-goal with less than a minute to play.
“I wasn’t trying to think negatively about the situation,” Swanson said. “I was just trying to think as positively as I could. Malcolm made an outstanding play and broke on the ball. That was the moment right there. The excitement of him making that play, it was wild.”
The moment, however, was bittersweet for Swanson. During training camp, his father, Henry Swanson, suffered a stroke and died at the age of 83.
After playing his entire football career dreaming of making the NFL, Swanson was unable to share being a member of a Super Bowl winning team with his father.
“I was thinking about that earlier,” Swanson said. “I wish he was here to be able to see it. I know he would love to see that be proud of me. It’s also an honor to win it the year he passed away.”
This offseason will be different for Swanson. The feeling of being a Super Bowl champion has yet to sink in, but he’s not guaranteed anything once training camp rolls around. After two seasons bouncing around the NFL, Swanson is anxious to finally make an active roster.
Being a rookie free agent, sometimes you just have to wait your turn,” Swanson said. “I’ve grown to understand that. I’m not letting it get to me. I’m preparing every day like I’m a starter. After that, whatever happens, happens.”