Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger doesn't know exactly what makes him so confident. He's had a swagger since he was little.
His fearlessness was helped by an encouraging mother and her karate teacher who shared what he called a warrior's creed with a young Swearinger. That creed, which is tattooed on the back of his right triceps, begins with the words: "I am never defeated."
It's a mantra that has helped the South Carolina standout throughout his football career, and has served him well as he's wowed the Texans in the early days of training camp.
"You can't think twice about anything," Swearinger said. "If you think twice about making a tackle or an interception, it messes with your mind a little bit. You've got to go through everything with confidence."
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The second-round pick is already behaving like a seasoned veteran. That's something the Texans could need if Ed Reed isn't healthy by the season opener and Swearinger has to start in his place. Coach Gary Kubiak isn't surprised by his development and said his maturity is one of the reasons they drafted him.
"We knew that's what we were getting from our interviews with him and being around him, but I don't think we had any idea he was this mature in what he does as a football player," Kubiak said. "We expected it, but with Reed being out, it's been even more. He's going to be a big part of this team."
Swearinger has long looked up to Reed and can barely believe that he has the chance to be teammates with the nine-time Pro Bowler. Though Reed isn't yet practicing, the rookie is constantly peppering him with questions and trying to soak up his knowledge.
Swearinger joined the Texans after starting for four seasons at South Carolina where he developed a reputation as one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in the Southeastern Conference. He had 79 tackles, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries last season for the nation's second-ranked defense. He finished his career with 244 tackles, six interceptions and four forced fumbles in 52 games.
He believes his time playing for coach Steve Spurrier prepared him for success in the NFL.
"In college I played every position in the back end so it helped me a whole lot," Swearinger said. "Coach Spurrier threw a lot of things at us and I guarded (receivers) in the slot too so it helped me a whole lot. Just a lot of different looks from coach Spurrier and me playing a lot of different positions helped me with the game mentally over all."
Along with his reputation as a hard hitter, Swearinger's also known to talk a lot of trash on the field when he's making plays. He wouldn't share any of the go-to lines he uses on opponents, but flashed a wide smile when asked about it.
"I have been talking trash with football all my life since little league," he said. "Whenever I am taking trash that's me having fun and me being myself."
He's also found a way to funnel that affinity for trash talking into a favorite hobby. Swearinger is an aspiring rapper and has even released a mixtape with a friend on a popular rap website.
On the album, he goes by the name Jungle Boi and raps about life on an off the field, even including lines about his hard-hitting style.
Though he loves to rap, he probably won't have much time to work on his craft during the season.
"It was just something fun to do," he said. "Now I'm concentrating on football."