Julian Swann is coming. Julian Swann is coming.
This wasn’t the first time that Greenport/Southold/Mattituck high school football coaches had heard that Swann was coming out for the team. “I told them every year, but I didn’t show up,” said Swann.
The difference this time around was Swann — all 6 feet, 5 inches and 270 pounds of him — showed up when preseason practice began this week. Greenport’s new offensive coordinator, Joshua Shields, is drooling over the prospect of what Swann may bring to his offense as a tight end. Fast for a player his size, Swann has good hands.
Sometimes a team gets a gift from the football gods.
Of course, there is a caveat: Swann has never played football before. Looking at him, that sounds hard to believe.
“I know, it’s crazy,” senior tailback Jordan Fonseca said. “How has he never played football for us?”
Fonseca said he was one of the people who routinely begged Swann, a standout basketball player for Greenport, to give football a try.
Once Swann arrived, equipment had to be found that fit him. Easier said than done.
“I had to order him some new shoulder pads,” coach Jack Martilotta said. “We’ve had some big kids in the past, and everything I put on him was not big enough.”
Finding a helmet for him wasn’t easy, either.
However, the Porters see Swann as a good fit at tight end.
“I wouldn’t want to cover him,” Martilotta said. “He’s got some natural gifts that you and I don’t have. He’s very large. He seems to move well. We’re just in helmets now, but we’ll have a better idea about this time next week once we start pushing that sled and doing things like that.”
Following the second day of practices on Tuesday, Swann said he was enjoying football so far. “I think it [will] be fun, a lot of fun,” he said.
The Porters lost their entire offensive line, both tailbacks and a fullback from last year’s team, making Swann’s availability even more appreciated. Martilotta said they may see if they can find a home on defense for Swann as well. “We had a lot of kids graduate last year, so we got a lot of holes to fill, and I think he’ll help us fill at least one or two of those holes,” said the coach.
Fonseca, a second team all-county player who is out for a couple of weeks with a high ankle sprain, relished the thought of running behind Swann’s block.
Also back for the Porters are offensive tackle/defensive tackle John Rodriguez and quarterback Sean Sepenoski, who may be moved to another position, with quarterback Ahkee Anderson brought up from the junior varsity team.
“We’re going to try to move the ball around a little more … We got some kids who have some speed and can catch,” Martilotta said. “We’re going to make a concerted effort this year to of course run — I mean that’s what Greenport football is — but in addition to running we’re going to make sure that we can put that ball up in the air from time to time.”
Swann has a lot of learning ahead of him, but Fonseca made a prediction. “I think he’s going to love it, and then he’s going to love it so much he’s going to regret not playing the other years,” Fonseca said. “I think he’s going to do great. The first couple of games he’s going to be a little like starstruck and then like after the first two games he’ll be good. He’ll get his confidence.”
Swann said: “People were telling me it might be my favorite sport. I think I’ll get the hang of it.”
Photo caption: Offensive coordinator Joshua Shields talking to Julian Swann during Tuesday evening’s practice. (Credit: Bob Liepa)