For a 6'5, 312-pound NFL center prospect, Travis Swanson is a pretty flexible guy. I mean that figuratively, of course -- doing the splits wasn't part of his impressive NFL Combine performance, so I can't speak to his literal plasticity. From the former Arkansas Razorback's willingness to experiment with position changes to his proven adaptability in different offensive schemes to his ability to field bizarre questions from the Cleveland Browns about bricks (yes, bricks), Swanson is heading into the NFL's annual selection process ready for anything.
Rated as the No. 2 center prospect by SB Nation and projected as high as the first round by some draft pundits, the All-SEC performer has a chance to be the top player taken at his position. Sticking to his flexible nature, however, he says he'll be happy to be drafted anytime, anywhere.
Swanson recently sat down with SB Nation to discuss his preparation and outlook as he readies himself for entering the NFL.
How did you prepare for the combine?
The training for the combine was different than anything I had personally done in the past. ... You basically turn into a glorified track star, training for the 40 and everything. You're not necessarily doing as much weight lifting as I had done in the past. It's more form running and explosive-type things.
Do you get any actual football benefit from that or is it basically cosmetics for the combine?
I think it definitely helps. There are different forms of training for football, and I think it's good to mix it up so you have some muscle confusion. If you do the same thing over and over your body tends to get used to it.
What did you think of your performance in Indy?
I think I did good. I thought the thing I was most happy with was my interviews, how I felt walking out of every single one of them. I don't think there was one I can think of that I had the slightest bit of doubt that I didn't do my best. Everyone wants to pay attention to the 40s and everything of that nature when, for me, the biggest thing at the combine, outside of your medical, are the interviews.
You've been projected anywhere from the first to the fourth round. Do you have an idea of where you'll go?
I have no idea. I try to stay away from the things you see online. I know someone might have heard something through the grapevine … I don't want to put anything in my head that, come draft day, you have some idea of where you're going to go, and for some unfortunate reason it doesn't happen. So I try to steer away from the things I see online.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of it, no one truly knows what's going to happen besides the GM, the owner, the head coach. So I always looked at as why would I look at it online where people are throwing all these speculations and scenarios out there that probably won't even happen.
What do you think will be the biggest adjustment between college ball and pro ball?
Honestly, I'm not sure. I've tried to talk to some guys that are at that level now that I've played with in years past. They've told me you're truly on your own and it's a business. You got to think from a business mindset for everything.
At the Senior Bowl you played some guard, a position you haven't played since high school.
I did. I played all three interior line positions that week. I played all three interior line positions during the game. I think that really helps my value when teams are talking about whether or not they want someone.
A lot of the stuff is the same from a technical standpoint. If you're a guard you just don't have to snap the ball. Maybe you move your foot back a little bit more. You'd be surprised at how easy that transition is.
You went from a pass-happy offense under Bobby Petrino your freshman and sophomore years to a power run offense under Bret Bielema as a senior. What did you think of that transition?
I thought it was fun. You definitely get to see a whole new perspective on things. I think the whole thing was a blessing in disguise, because you really need get to see the best of both worlds. I think it really adds to your stock when a team looks at you and says 'oh this guy went through a major coaching change and has been successful in two offenses.'
So you think versatility will help you on draft day?
Yeah, I do. [Those two offenses] are on two complete different sides of the spectrum, so I feel like it covers a lot of ground. People say 'oh he only fits the zone blocking scheme' or 'he only fits the power or spread or hurry up.' I think, for my case, this covers everything, due to the fact that they're so different from each other and I was successful in both of them.
What type of adjustments did you have to make to adapt to the power run system?
I think the biggest thing for me was terminology. Scheme was a little different, but that's not a big deal. You get in the weight room and obviously your body needs to be different for those offenses. Thankfully we have a great staff at the university and they helped get us transitioned in that first offseason.
You've proved your versatility, but is there a system you think that suits you better than others in the NFL?
I think I can fit into any one, honestly. I feel as though I'm extremely coachable. I've always taken that approach. There's always a reason the coach doesn't play someone. I'm not going to give them a reason not to play me. That's kind of the mindset I've had since I got into college.
Chip Kelly was pretty successful in incorporating some college spread concepts into an NFL offense. Do you think going into a system like that provides some familiarity and eases the transition for guys coming out of college?
I think it depends on the school you come from and what schemes you might have run. For me at least, I've covered every area. I've been in the hurry-up, to this past year, slow down, huddle up, power run. When you get into the grand scheme of things, all of the schemes I've played in are the same, it's just different terminology. That's probably the hardest part, just to get that down.
Getting back to team interviews, I heard the Browns had a pretty whacky question for you at the Senior Bowl.
Yea, they asked me all the things you could do with a brick in a single minute, which kind of threw me off guard. I thought it was a good question, because you get asked the same things over and over and over again. I think I said you can use it as a door stop, you could start to build something, I think you could squish a bug.
What were some of the more traditional questions you got at the Senior Bowl and during the combine?
Just the basics. Where you're originally from. Your parents, are they still together? Younger brother, siblings. Did you play any other sports in high school? Do you have a criminal record they need to know about? Just things like that. … Then after you get through the formalities they pull up the tape and you just start talking football with them.
Character scouting has become a big part of the modern draft process. How deep did they dig into your past?
I think they dig into it quite a bit. I don't have many skeletons in the closet in my past, so there's only so far I have to go back. But I've heard of situations where guys have said they got a call from a middle school teacher saying someone from a team had called and asked about them.
Do you think it's fair that some prospects are labeled as character risks by people that have spent a few minutes with them or are going off second-hand knowledge?
I really don't know, because I don't know the ins and outs of the business and I don't know the mindset that some higher personal in organizations have. Obviously people want to do their homework on someone if they're going to draft them and bring them into their organization.
Where will you be on draft day? Will you keep up with it on TV?
I'm going to be in Fayetteville. I'm going to watch it on TV. I'm going to have the TV on, but I'm not going to be glued to it 24/7. Hopefully my name gets called. Then I'll go from there.