CHIP ON SHOULDER BOOSTS SWEARINGER
Intense safety disproves doubters, honors Sean Taylor
Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger struts across football fields with fists clenched, the same Bone Thugs-N-Harmony hook pounding through his head, wearing resentment like a pair of oversized shoulder pads. Burning in his chest is a volcano of slights, filled with all the voices of the doubters, the disbelievers and those who just don’t understand. The rage rises, building, building, building until at last it erupts into a blast of spit and screams and flying hair.
You don’t think D.J. Swearinger is the best safety in the NFL? Really, you don’t? Because here he comes now, 205 pounds of muscle carved in the same Miami gym that molded the rippling arms of LeBron James, ready to make you realize you’ve been hit by the NFL’s top safety. No. 1. Get it? That’s D.J. Swearinger.
“It’s the thuggish, ruggish bone,” Shatasha Williams sings on the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony song Swearinger plays on constant repeat.
In his mind, he hears the Houston Texans coaches who didn’t get him, the critics who called him a dirty player and the chorus of football experts who hardly seemed to know who he was. He seethes. He rages. Then he goes looking for another pass to intercept.
He wears his dead hero’s rookie number, plays for his dead hero’s NFL team, imagining every minute that he’s prowling the secondary like Sean Taylor, hunting for a receiver to hit. And somewhere it occurs to him that at age 27, he might actually be at exactly the right place.
Washington Redskins free safety D.J. Swearinger (36) speaks to his teammates in a huddle before a victory Oct. 21 against the Dallas Cowboys in Landover, Md. After joining the Redskins in 2017, he quickly became one of the defense’s leaders.