WHITEWRIGHT — Tyrone Swoopes has been under a spotlight for so long he hardly even notices.
Part of it is by design as one of the most sought-after football recruits in the state. Part of it is the Whitewright senior’s makeup. Hype is a word that doesn’t exist in Swoopes’ world, no matter how many people try to introduce it.
“I think I’ve handled it well. I try to stay away from all that,” Swoopes said. “Coach (Mack) Brown told me ‘You’re never as good as they say and you’re never as bad as they say.’”
Swoopes will be taking his even-keeled approach to the University of Texas next week. Enrolling early has become a more popular option for players to become acclimated to all the aspects that surround the commitment of a Division I program.
“I thought about it all summer. I talked to them about it and they thought it was good,” Swoopes said. “I talked to my parents and they said the same thing. It was my decision.”
It will also allow Swoopes an opportunity to become more familiar with the requirements placed on him if he is to provide an immediate impact on the field as a true freshman. And by the time the season starts, he will be close to being classified as a sophomore academically.
Swoopes spent this past weekend in San Antonio competing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, will finish up his classes at Whitewright and begin at Texas on Wednesday.
But enrolling early comes at a price. He did not play basketball for the Tigers, who were one victory shy of the state tournament last spring, and while he will be back to go to prom and walk at graduation, Swoopes will miss out on the other senior-related finishing touches to a high school career.
“I won’t miss everything, just the little stuff that can make senior year special,” he said.
Not returning to the basketball court was a particular issue.
“I love basketball as much as football,” Swoopes said. “I knew it’d be tough but I had to make the decision. It’s tough to go to the games and not be able to help.”
Swoopes made his decision to play for the Longhorns last February after attending Texas’ Junior Day and hoping to avoid the constant speculation about his future for the upcoming year.
Swoopes had dozens of offers before narrowing the search to Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU.
“I didn’t feel the same way I did at Texas,” he said. “It wasn’t hard to stay with my commitment.”
After an injury in the season-opener during his freshman year sidelined him for the rest of 2009, Swoopes put up stellar numbers over the next three seasons.
As a sophomore he ran for 1,530 yards and 28 touchdowns on 119 carries while completing 98 of 171 passes for 1,550 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions and led the Tigers to an undefeated regular season and a district title.
In 2011 Whitewright returned to the playoffs and Swoopes ran for 2,336 yards and 29 touchdowns on 181 carries and completing 102 of 193 passes for 1,342 yards and 15 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
That year against Tom Bean he ran for 560 yards — the second-best single-game total in Texas high school history — and seven touchdowns on 28 carries. He is one of nine Texas players to run for at least 500 yards in a game.
This past fall he compiled 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns on 151 carries and 958 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions while battling injuries and the Tigers managed to win just a single game.
He was an honorable mention all-state selection twice and the District MVP as a sophomore and junior.
Swoopes finished his time at Whitewright with 5,341 yards and 73 TDs rushing and 3,850 yards and 41 touchdowns passing.
“I did put up pretty big numbers,” he said. “It was fun and everything but I don’t throw my stats at people. If people want to ask questions or anything I tell them.”
One thing eluded Swoopes during his time at Whitewright like he eluded defenders each Friday.
“Winning a playoff game. We got there twice and it’s tough thinking about it,” he said. “Getting there and not winning.”
Early recruiting rankings had Swoopes as one of the most-coveted players in the nation. Rivals initially had Swoopes as the top player in the state and a five-star prospect ranked 11th overall in the country. In its latest rankings compiled in early December, he was viewed as the 10th-best player in the state, a four-star prospect at 96th overall, and the second-best dual-threat QB in the country.
Texas went 9-4 overall this past season, 5-4 in the Big 12 and closed with a victory against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. The Longhorns’ quarterback situation has been in flux for the past couple of seasons and junior Case McCoy and sophomore David Ash have alternated snaps. Connor Brewer, another highly-touted prospect, is coming off a redshirt freshman season and will also be competing for the starting job.
“It was kind of a big factor. It would be a lot easier for me going in the spring and summer,” Swoopes said. “They told me I get the same opportunities. Everybody is starting at the same level.”