WHEATON – If there ever was a time for Justin Swider to brag about himself, it would have been during the past nine months.
After completing his junior year at Wheaton College, the Wheaton North High School graduate netted all-region honors in football and baseball.
Swider had every reason to puff out his chest, but that’s just not in his DNA, according to Thunder football coach Mike Swider, who also happens to be Justin’s dad.
“He’s a really humble kid,” Mike Swider said.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder was selected to the D3Football.com All-North Region third team as a kick returner in the fall before being picked for the D3Baseball.com All-Central Region third team as an outfielder.
“It was really remarkable when you think about it in this day and age,” Mike Swider said. “Playing two sports in college is not an easy thing. You have fall baseball and spring football; it’s a difficult thing and doesn’t happen often. To experience the success he did, I’m quite proud of him as his father.”
Justin Swider said it was a fun year all-around.
“We did some great things in both sports as a team,” he said. “In football, we won conference and also beat [national power] North Central and those were two big goals we had this year. In baseball, we made the conference tournament which we hadn’t done since 2009.
“All around, it was a great experience and I was blessed to be a part of those teams. Without my teammates, I could not have done it.”
This spring, Swider led the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin in batting average (.418) and RBIs (27). He moved up to third or fourth in the batting order after hitting further back last season and had to overcome early struggles to post his league-leading numbers.
“It was a little bit of an adjustment figuring out how pitchers were going to pitch me,” he said. “At the beginning, I struggled a bit. I was hitting .185 after 12 games. It was frustrating, but I kept working. As the year progressed, things started to click. I got more and more comfortable in my role. It was a fun ride.”
Swider excelled as a kickoff returner in the fall despite not having a lot of experience with the position. He also contributed as a running back.
“It’s a rush. You are running full speed and guys are running full speed at you. I worked at it and got better and better. And a lot of it, I had a great kickoff return team.”
As nice as the accolades are, the most important thing is that Swider continues to have a passion for both sports.
“I absolutely love it,” said the business economics major, who has a 3.60 GPA. “I always tell people, if I start to love one more than the other or if one becomes more important than the other, I would quit the one that was not as important. But that time hasn’t come, and I hope it never comes.”
Competing in two sports in college hasn’t been that exhausting, Swider said. In fact, the busiest time is in between seasons.
“During the school year, I don’t have two seasons going on at the same time. But now I am lifting four days a week for football and we do three days of running and I’m also playing summer baseball. We have two games during the week and usually four games on the weekend.
“People always ask, how do you do two sports? But it is pretty simple, they are not overlapping, so I don’t have a dual load.”
Even bigger goals are motivating Swider with his final year of college athletics set to kick off in a couple of months.
“I’d love to be All-American in both sports. People might say that’s crazy, but I don’t think it’s crazy to set high goals.”