Note: the full version of this story ran in the May 12, 2007 edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. What follows is an excerpt.
Ed Dalton remembered the play almost immediately.
It was the first scrimmage of the season, and the head coach for Washington (Pa.) Trinity lined up freshman Andrew Sweat for his first play at strong safety. The ball was snapped, and within a few seconds Sweat had already made an impact.
“The first guy he hit, he knocked the kid out,” Dalton told BSB. “He knocked the ball loose (and) the kid looked like he was out for the eight-count.”
It was a sign of things to come for Sweat, who now stands 6-3, 230 pounds and plays linebacker for Trinity. At the time, though, it was just a hit made by a kid trying to get the coaching staff to notice him.
“In ninth grade I was trying to make the varsity team and I was kind of overwhelmed by everything,” Sweat said. “I was trying to do something to impress them, and I guess I made a pretty good hit.”
The impact of that hit is still being felt nearly three years after the fact. Now a senior-to-be, Sweat is still delivering what Dalton calls “bone-crunching” hits for the Hillers. It is just where he delivers them from that has changed.
After beginning as a safety, Sweat moved to linebacker during his sophomore season and split time between the two spots out of need. As a junior, he focused exclusively on linebacker while playing defense.
The end result was a season that saw Sweat rack up 165 tackles – 13 for loss – along with 4 sacks and 2 interception for the Hillers, earning all-state honors in the process.
Sweat’s talents have his coach thinking of a certain current OSU linebacker.
“Not to burden him with a role, but I was at Ohio State’s practice … and the kid he reminds me of the most is the best kid, (James) Laurinaitis,” he said. “He’s as close to him as he is to any of those other kids.
“He’s a closer. He can just get to the ball and get off blocks. He has unbelievable natural instincts for his physical size. He also has great footspeed.”
Trinity utilizes a 4-4 defense, so while Sweat is classified as a middle linebacker he is actually the inside linebacker positioned on the same side of the field as the opposing team’s tight end.
“Coming to linebacker, I guess things happen a little faster,” said Sweat, who played linebacker in Pee-Wee football as a child. “I guess you read your keys and get to the ball and it’s kind of the same deal. I guess things just happen a bit faster and you have to work with blockers and stuff and trying to shed them, rather than at safety you just run past and fill the alleys.”
Linebacker is likely the position he will play in college, and it is the position Ohio State is recruiting him for. Some schools are visualizing him as a safety at the next level, but the majority have the same line of thinking as the Buckeyes.
For his part, Sweat said he simply enjoys playing defense. Dalton also has utilized the 6-3, 230-pounder as an H-back and a tight end, and this year he will be lining up at fullback as well.
“I can tell you that if he played safety he’d probably be one of the top safeties,” the coach said. “He’s just one of those guys. The other thing about recruiting him is if he’s not your Mike backer, he can be your Will backer. If he’s not your Will backer, he can be your strong safety. If he’s not your strong, he can probably be a free. If he’s not your free, he can be your H-back.
“There’s like seven different ways you can go with him. It’s not like recruiting a fat tackle and then all of a sudden he can’t play fat tackle, guess what, he can’t do anything for you.”
More than 40 schools have offered Sweat, but he was planning to make a final decision sometime during the month of May.
While in attendance at OSU’s spring game, Sweat was seen hanging out with the likes of Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater offensive lineman Michael Brewster, Klein, Texas, offensive lineman J.B. Shugarts and Dublin (Ohio) Coffman offensive lineman Mike Adams and tight end Jake Stoneburner.
In the immediate aftermath of the game, Brewster and Shugarts joined Adams and Stoneburner as verbal members of the OSU class of 2008 and both Brewster and Adams have expressed a desire to help recruit Sweat to come to Columbus.
When he makes his final decision, however, it will be solely based on which school is the best one for himself, regardless of who else has committed there.
“We’ll see where I end up, and if we end up at the same place that would be awesome,” he said. “You’d like to play with them. We’re all good friends outside of football. We all know each other and we joke around and we had a good time.
“But ultimately I have to do what I think is best for me.”