Josh Swogger dropped in at the Chevrolet Centre Saturday night. The operative word is “dropped.”
The Vienna native and former Ursuline quarterback made his debut with the Mahoning Valley Thunder Saturday only to be victimized by numerous dropped passes. Four of Swogger’s first seven passes were right in receivers’ hands only to fall harmlessly to the turf. Three of those would have been certain scores.
“You’ve just got to ignore that and have a short-term memory whether things are going good or bad,” said the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Swogger.
It didn’t take long for the 3,735 inside the arena to realize the 2008 version of the Thunder will not go down in the annals of professional football (or even Arena Football League2) as having one of the most proficient receiving corps. On his first snap as a professional, Swogger hit DeMarcus Mathes in stride on what should have been a 45-yard touchdown pass. The ball went right through DeMathes’ hands.
“It was a frustrating first half,” said Thunder coach Mike Hold, whose club trailed Albany 26-23 at intermission. “We were doing good things but had too many mistakes. We had three dropped TDs on three different series.”
Behind Swogger’s poise and his accurate throws, Mahoning Valley rallied to score the final 36 points of the contest en route to a 59-33 victory over the Conquest in the season opener for both. Although Swogger’s numbers weren’t spectacular ( 10 of 24 for 157 yards and four scores), he had at least eight passes dropped. He was given the game’s Most Valuable Player award by the media.
“I didn’t really have any pre-conceived ideas,” Hold said when asked if Swogger met his expectations. “We tried to give him a game plan he felt comfortable with. When he drops back and he’s throwing, he’s a good talent. We didn’t want to make him think too much. I think he made some great throws and he’s going to get better, as will everyone.”
After leading Ursuline to a state title his senior year, Swogger spent three years playing at Washington State. He transferred to Division I-AA Montana his final season and led the Grizzlies to the national semifinals.
After leaving Montana, Swogger had tryouts with Kansas City, Buffalo and Atlanta of the NFL, as well as with the Colorado Crush in AF-1.
“I couldn’t stick anywhere,” Swogger said. “Everyone said I needed some more experience. (The Crush) asked me to come back but I didn’t think I wanted to make that move to play Arena Football. I have a wife and daughter now. I knew we had the Mahoning Valley Thunder right here in my backyard, so I figured I’d give it a shot.”
Swogger owns a commercial cleaning company in the area but his dreams of playing in the NFL have not gone away.
“You always want to move on to the next level,” he said. “You’re only young once in your life. I have to go for it now. I can always be a business owner later in life.”
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Mahoning Valley Thunder quarterback Josh Swogger throws the ball down the field while getting protection from Mike Lane, center, on Albany Conquest’s Brenton Brady and Thunder’s Chris Terrell, right, Saturday at the Chevrolet Centre. The Thunder rallied for a 59-33 victory. View more CU photos at cu.tribune-chronicle.com