D.J. Swearinger has everything that NFL teams look for in a safety – and maybe even too much of it in this day and age of safety first.
"A lot of teams have mentioned they like my aggressiveness," the South Carolina standout said. "They just tell me on the next level it's going to be big bucks."
Swearinger paid a price for his hard-hitting ways on the college level in the form of a one-game suspension last season following helmet-to-helmet contact with a defenseless receiver.
Florida safety Matt Elam wasn't suspended last season but also carries a reputation for delivering bone-jarring hits into the NFL Draft. When asked by a reporter at the NFL Scouting Combine what his biggest strength is, Elam said "my physicality."
"I play very hard," he continued. "I love to strike people."
And as long as Elam and Swearinger don't cross the fine line between playing hard and playing outside of the rules, NFL teams will love what they bring to the table.
Elam, who made the all-Southeastern Conference first team last season, could possibly sneak into the first round of the draft. Swearinger, who made the all-SEC second team, looks like a possible second-rounder.
"My mind is on competing and going first round," Swearinger said. "It would be a total disappointment if I didn't."
Swearinger has long strived to be the best. The Greenwood, S.C., native started every game over the last two seasons – save the suspension – and played in every game in four seasons at South Carolina. He's more known around the locker room for going for the ball than going for heads, with nine interceptions in his college career. He's also more known for talking up his teammates than trash-talking opponents.
"It's the playmaker mentality. Teams want to see turnovers," Swearinger said. "First and foremost, I'm a leader. I lead vocally and physically.
"I have great ball skills. I've played every position in the back end, from corner to strong safety to free safety to the nickel. I'm a versatile player. I'm not only just a safety, I'm an athlete."
Those sentiments are echoed by Elam, who had six interceptions in three seasons at Florida, the last two as a starter. Both safeties said they modeled their games in part after future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, though Elam also made mention of his brother Abram, who played safety for the Kansas City Chiefs last year.
Both also believe their time in the SEC will pay dividends.
"The SEC is the best conference in America. It's next to the NFL if you ask me," Swearinger said. "I haven't played in the NFL, but a lot of my past teammates say it's no different than the SEC, just more professional."
Neither Swearinger nor Elam lacks in confidence, but that shouldn't be construed as a negative. Swearinger believes that such an outlook is essential if the hard hitters are to avoid hard knocks.
"You can't have any doubts," he said. "The second you doubt at my position, it's six points."