Aug 9, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - With unemployment near 20 percent and the nation's highest rate of violent crime, the city of Detroit isn't the most hospitable place to raise a family. So give credit to Kristal Dixon, who successfully raised twin boys Kayon and Kenya Swanson in the Motor City.
Kayon Swanson, a senior nose tackle for Southern Illinois, said his mother was determined to keep close tabs on her kids throughout childhood.
"She watched who I was associating with and sometimes she didn't let me go out because she didn't want me to become a statistic," Kayon sad. "I hated that in high school, but I love her for it now because she was a strong force and wouldn't let her kids go down the wrong path."
To get her children in a better school system, Dixon moved the family from the city to the suburb of Southfield, Mich.
"My mom had a consistent job as a probation parole officer and she also has a notary company, so it wasn't a financial struggle growing up," Kayon said. "I'm fortunate to have a really tight-knit family that was able to provide."
Both boys played football in high school, but it was Kayon who developed into a three-sport star, excelling in football, wrestling and track, a sport in which he was All-State in the shot put. Kenya went on to get a job in the auto industry at Ford Motor Co., while Kayon was one of two Southfield High School athletes to earn a Division I football scholarship.
Even though they went their separate ways after high school, the twin brothers remain close.
"His thrill was watching me compete in sports -- he lived his dreams through me," Kayon said. "And he made sure I never went astray. Now, I hear stories about our high school friends and things that happened to them, and I'm so glad we're a strong-knit family with good morales."
Swanson has never missed a game in his three-year career at SIU and emerged last season as a dominant force on the Saluki defensive line. He recorded 52 tackles, 4.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss to earn All-Conference honors.
Kayon Swanson records a sack at Ole Miss.
Swanson earned National Player of the Week honors for his efforts at Mississippi, and it was the type of performance he hopes to replicate on a consistent basis this season. With talented defensive ends Ken Boatright and Eze Obiora flanking each side, Swanson should see fewer double teams this year.
"The three of us are really close friends and we think we can have a great year as a unit," he said. "It just so happens we're all really good football players and we hold each other accountable."
The 6-foot-1, 304-pound fireplug wonders if there could be a place for him in the NFL if he keeps improving.
"Hopefully, I can go to the NFL and provide for my family, but that's not my focus," said the sports administration major. "I want to dominate each and every week. It's a dream, and that's why you put this jersey on, but if it doesn't happen, I'm grateful for the people I've met and the opportunities I've had."
His ultimate dream is to play for his hometown Detroit Lions. He has a tattoo that says, "Detroit Only," a poster on his wall of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, and said he idolizes Ndamukong Suh. Swanson thinks his skill-set would fit nicely with the Lions.
"I don't want to be categorized as a 300-pound player," he said. "I want to be known as a skilled player, who plays with aggression and a mean streak."
Today marked the first day in full pads with live contact. There were live blocking and tackling drills, but no live tackling during 7-on-7 and Team drills. The first live scrimmage will be on Saturday morning.
The coaching staff is determined to improve the team's open-field tackling. Last year, they felt there were too many missed tackles that led to big plays. In one drill, the defensive backs were matched up 1-on-1 against a receiver in the flat. Some of the DBs who made clean, open-field stops were S Darius Merriweather, CB Courtney Richmond, CB Emmanuel Souarin, S Luke Thuston, S David Boatright, S Q'Niko Thomas and S Anthony Thompson. Simultaneously, the outside linebackers were matched up on the far end of the field against a running back in the flat.
There were some good 1-on-1 pass-blocking battles between the offensive and defensive linemen today. G Eric Begman contained NT Kayon Swanson, DE Brandon Williams beat G Nate Haremza, DE Eze Obiora slipped past OT Richard Wilson, G Ryan Wood subdued DE Calvin Belts, DE Blake Miller got by G Josh Tinajero, and C Matt Griffith smothered NT TJ Beelen. After the 1-on-1 blocking, the offensive line worked 2-on-2 at picking up defensive stunts and loops.
During the Team session, the two biggest pass plays were a deep flag from QB Matt Vincent to RB Steve Strother and a flag route in which QB A.J. Hill connected with WR Carl Harris, who did a nice job of getting one foot in-bounds. CB Emmanuel Souarin made a nice open-field wrap-up of WR LaSteven McKinney on a swing pass. Souarin also broke up a pass from QB Kory Faulkner intended for TE MyCole Pruitt, though the offense insisted he arrived early. Faulkner had a couple of big-play opportunities, but his pass to WR Josh Sullivan, who was running a wheel route, was slightly under thrown. Later, he found Pruitt open down the middle of the field, but the ball went off Pruitt's fingertips.
Some personnel notes -- QB Ryan West has switched to jersey No. 14, and three players sat out with minor injuries today.