Of the many before-and-after success stories that have been spun at Georgia Tech with new strength-and-conditioning coach Lewis Caralla, not many are as drastic as that of linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling.
“He’s a guy that looks different than when we got here,” defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker said. “Lost 15 pounds in the offseason program, muscled up, lost body fat and is just running like the big-time running back he was out of high school, and is in the right place mentally.”
At his heaviest, Jordan-Swilling said, he was as much as 234 pounds. He said he is now down to 210, meaning there’s 10% less Jordan-Swilling that needs to be transported on the way to meeting ball carriers. As the Yellow Jackets push their way through their first week of the preseason, Jordan-Swilling said he feels much quicker.
“I just feel better,” he said Friday after the team’s third practice of the preseason. “I’m making better cuts, I’m playing my reads right. I’m actually proud of myself for how far I’ve come.”
As Thacker and coach Geoff Collins develop a defense that returns only three full-time starters from the 2018 defense and is undergoing a scheme shift, Jordan-Swilling could be a breakout performer who could help lift the Jackets beyond their dismal preseason projections.
“I’m flying around, getting after it,” Jordan-Swilling said. “I feel way better.”
“That’s the Bruce that I knew when he first got here,” linebacker David Curry said. “He was lightning fast and he’s doing really well in camp and I’m proud of him.”
After two seasons in which he played as a backup, Jordan-Swilling could pair with Curry at the heart of the Tech defense, although Quez Jackson and Charlie Thomas are challenging for playing time also.
“He’s had a really good three days,” Curry said. “His productivity is out of the roof and he’s getting to the ball every play.”
Jordan-Swilling attributed his weight loss to eating better and taking care of his body with proper hydration and stretching.
“Just doing what I needed to do, what I should have been doing from the beginning,” he said.
The reshaping of his body is testament to what Jordan-Swilling said is a heightened recognition of the opportunity in front of him as the second half of his Jackets career begins. There’s a starting job to be seized and just two more years to play.
The son of Tech great Pat Swilling, who came to Tech from New Orleans as a four-star prospect, has contributed mostly on special teams as players such as Brant Mitchell and Curry were ahead of him. At the same time, he saw his brother Tre, a cornerback, move into the starting lineup last year and then become one of the standouts of the spring.
“I honestly had a talk with my mom, and she read a couple clips about Tre,” Jordan-Swilling said. “She said, ‘You have to want it for yourself. Nobody else can want it for you.’”
Jordan-Swilling’s arc is hardly unusual. It often takes players until their junior or senior years to take nutrition and playing-time opportunities more seriously. Jordan-Swilling is different in that he has gone through his time with Tech as the son of a Tech legend and also as a high-profile recruit.
There is also the fact that Jordan-Swilling is now on his third defensive coordinator in as many years, as Thacker follows Ted Roof and Nate Woody. Also, Jordan-Swilling was new to linebacker as a freshman, having played running back in high school. Jordan-Swilling said he thinks of himself as an athlete first, but, going into season 3, “I can consider myself as a linebacker.”
The change in identity could be part of another before-and-after transformation for Jordan-Swilling, with this summer serving as a border between the first half of his career and the second.
Following his brother’s success, “now it’s time to prove my worth,” Jordan-Swilling said. “I have to prove what I can do, show what I can do.”