New Lions assistant head coach and running backs coach Duce Staley has had his eye on Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift for some time now.
Staley spent seven years as a player in Philadelphia and the last decade coaching for the Eagles. Most anyone who knows football in Philly knows of Swift, who was a high school legend in Philadelphia at St. Joseph's Preparatory School before heading to the University of Georgia. Staley even went out and watched Swift play a game in high school when he was coaching the Eagles.
"D'Andre is a kid I've been watching for a long time," Staley said Wednesday. "He's a Philly native. Been able to go out and watch him in high school. He was super talented in high school, of course he's super talented now.
"I'm just happy to be a part of his growth and his development for the next couple years or so. I'm excited about that. I've had a chance to study him at Georgia and going to the Combine. He's got some special traits and just can't wait to get him in the room, have a conversation with him, that's where it starts, and then we'll start building what we're going to do with him."
A security guard for the Eagles, Big Dom, was friends with Swift's father Darren, and took Staley to Swift's high school game.
"He was awesome," Staley said of watching Swift in high school. "He was able to do what special players do on that level, and that made everyone miss, including the referees."
Swift continued to play like that at Georgia, and last year in Detroit as a rookie after the Lions made him a second-round pick in last year's NFL Draft.
Swift averaged 4.6 yards per carry his rookie season and was one of only five rookies to record at least 10 touchdowns – and that's with Swift missing three games due to injury. He rushed for 521 yards and eight touchdowns and caught another 46 passes for 357 yards and a couple scores. He showed speed, quickness, elusiveness, power and an ability to catch the football and be a three-down back. It's made a lot of people in Detroit excited about his future, including Staley.
Staley took over coaching the running backs in Philadelphia in 2013 and added the assistant coach title in 2018. In his eight seasons overseeing Philadelphia's running backs, the Eagles produced the seventh most rushing yards (15,765) and seventh highest rushing average (4.40) in the NFL in that span.
Prior to coaching, Staley enjoyed a 10-year playing career at running back with the Eagles (1997-2003) and Steelers (2004-06), where he won a Super Bowl. He knows what good running backs look like, because he was one.
Staley said he's enjoyed following Swift's career, and he thinks he can help Swift continue to ascend in the NFL.
"He has some special traits," Staley said of Swift. "I can't wait to get my hands on him. I'm excited about that."