You do not even need to finish typing his last name. Simply key in “d-j-s-w-e-a-r” and Google finishes it for you.
“DJ Swearinger hit,” it suggests, as if the search engine is saying, “I know you want to watch it again!”
In 2012, D. J. Swearinger, then a University of South Carolina senior safety, delivered a hit that still makes Gamecocks smile, Tigers cringe and everyone in between press replay.
With 12:50 remaining and trailing 20-17, Clemson University running back Andre Ellington turned the corner on a wide run to the right. Swearinger darted from the secondary and blasted through Ellington like an airport turnstile. Ellington spun to the turf, and before he returned to his feet, Swearinger squatted in front of him and flexed his arms.
Swearinger was flagged 15 yards for taunting, but Clemson did not score again.
The hit signified the demonstrative dominance Carolina enjoyed in the Palmetto Bowl from 2009 to 2013. Brash, confident and fittingly … cocky. During that five-year stretch, Carolina’s defenses were so stingy, so salty and so nasty that a 15-yard taunting penalty was several offenses’ only hope for a first down.
That play still lives on in the lore of 30-second YouTube loops. Yet, that style of play no longer lives in Columbia.
It has relocated north.
Clemson’s defense now embodies that brazen attitude, especially in its secondary. Starting defensive backs Jayron Kearse, Mackensie Alexander and T.J. Green do not hesitate to demonstrate the satisfaction of a swatted pass or a jarring hit. Perhaps this group walks the line a little better on personal foul penalties, but their post-play chats are just as charged.
That fiery edge is not about trading barbs in pre-game warmups. It is not about waving arms after every overthrown pass. It is not about sprinting in 20-yard circles after every routine tackle.
All of that is spectacle, but what those dominant Carolina defenses had, what this Clemson unit has, is substance behind the swagger.
Remembering Swearinger only for the occasional flags he drew discounts his importance as an emotional leader and discredits his understanding of the defense. Swagger did not propel him into Ellington. He read the play properly, planted his feet and attacked the ball with a precise angle.