Interviews

2019 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Pete Swenson, Linebacker, Western Illinois University

For over 8-years, 365SportsNetwork.com has provided a platform for college football athletes from all levels who are wanting to make it to the next level a platform to hear their stores via interviews here on our network. Our interviews provide a full breakdown of the athlete’s career from their stints in college all the way to their current preparations for the NFL Draft and other pro opportunities. For more information please feel free to email Justin Kish at JustinKish@365SportsNetwork.com. 


Justin David Kish: Thank you so much for the time, Pete. Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Pete Swenson: My Real name is Zachary Peter Swenson, I go Pete because my parents were huge Pete Rose fans and always planned on calling me that. I am from Mason City Iowa but transferred in 8th grade to the small town across the County to Clear Lake, when my mother accepted a job as the head of the Special Education department in the high school. Along with football, I played basketball, track, soccer, and baseball. Growing up basketball was my favorite sport and a majority of my focus was on basketball. A lot of my moves as a pass rusher are derived from playing basketball for so many years. We also won state in baseball my junior year where I played shortstop and was player of the game in the state championship. My father was a football, basketball, and baseball coach in Mason City when I was growing up. He played baseball in College and was a tremendous athlete from what I have heard from his old friends and teammates. My mother was an all-state basketball player in high school and always very supportive of my athletic career. I also would like to mention my sibling both of which are older, I have one brother and one sister who would always beat up on me growing up making me a lot tougher in the long run. 

Justin David Kish: You played college football at Western Illinois University. Tell us about your time at WIU?

  • Pete Swenson: Playing at Western was one of the best choices I have ever made. I have made lifelong friends of my teammates and coaches. Western was a great fit for me because of the great atmosphere and the college-town field. I came in as a boy and believe I am leaving as a man. I came in as a tight end and spent my red-shirt year as a tight-end which I believe helped me tremendously as an edge defender. It helped me understand how offensive players like to block and different leverages at the point of attack. The hardest people to block are the ones that play with quick and strong hand placement. I try to incorporate that into my play as a defensive end/ outside linebacker.

Justin David Kish: During your time at Western Illinois, you chose to wear #50 is there a reason behind as to why you chose that number?

Pete Swenson: I actually came into college wearing number 84, I thought I was going to be young Randy Moss while playing tight end. When I switched to defense I wore 50 because that was the number of one of my former high school teammate and friend who passed away. 

Justin David Kish: Prior to the start of the 2018 season, Western Illinois cleared house at coaching and in your final season this year you worked under defensive coordinator Tyler Stockton, previously you played under Tony Grantham and David Elsen. How difficult was it to adapt three different coordinators and how did the coaching staff improve you during that time?

Pete Swenson: I honestly thought that it went as smoothly as it could. It was obviously different at first but it developed into a very good situation. I am extremely confident in our current defensive coordinator Tyler Stockton, who was the defensive line coach while I played D-end before switching to a 3-4 where I am currently an outside linebacker.

Justin David Kish: Playing in the FCS’s Missouri Valley Conference, you played against powerhouse teams like North Dakota State and Youngstown State. When you look back at your career what is one game that really took you to your limits?

Pete Swenson: One of the toughest games for me personally came my freshman year where I got the opportunity to start my first game at defensive end against North Dakota State in the Fargo Dome. For anyone that is not aware of FCS football, this is pretty much the craziest, loudest, most hostile environment to play in. I remember being scared to death when they scored their first touchdown and a cannon went off. I wasn’t aware you could have a cannon in an indoor stadium. This was the year we played against Carson Wentz, needless to say, we ended up losing pretty badly as they went on to win the national championship.

Justin David Kish: Playing linebacker, you went head-to-head against some of the toughest offensive linemen in the FCS and FBS. Who was the toughest player you faced in your college career?

Pete Swenson: Joe Haeg, who is currently a starter for the Indianapolis Colts was easily the best offensive lineman I have played. It just happened to be the game in the Fargo Dome I had just talked about where he played for North Dakota State. In my first career start, he was the player I was matched up on. 

Justin David Kish: You created so many memories with your teammates at Western Illinois. What is one memory that stands out from the rest?

Pete Swenson: My freshman year we had a very similar chance that we have at the end of my senior year. A final regular season game with playoff implications. Freshman year we had to beat #6 ranked South Dakota State in hopes to earn a playoff spot. We ended up taking them to overtime where me and a teammate made a sack on the final play of overtime when they needed a touchdown to tie. It was an awesome celebration as we all went to a hill on the side of the stadium that was covered in snow and slid down it in our pads.  

Justin David Kish: There is currently one game remaining for Western Illinois and from there you are preparing yourself for the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. How are you currently preparing yourself for your pro day and future draft workouts?

Pete Swenson: I have been preparing my entire career but as far as for combines and pro days, I haven’t had much time to focus on either. My focus has been on winning games and becoming the all-time sack leader in Western Illinois history. With a win this weekend we have a good shot at making the playoffs as the outright 3rd place team in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Usually at least 4 Valley teams make the 24 team playoff. This year everyone has beat up on each other pretty bad and it looks like only 3 Valley teams are going to make it and the winner of us and Indiana state is likely going to be that third team in.

Justin David Kish: What are your measurables?

Pete Swenson: 6’3”, 240 lbs.

Justin David Kish: Playing at the FCS level do you find yourself at a disadvantage due to playing in a lower level conference?

Pete Swenson: I try not to focus on things that I cannot control and just put my best out on film every week. The Missouri Valley Conference is actually ranked ahead of several FBS conferences so I don’t think it is a huge deal. There are a lot of FCS players in the NFL and hopefully, I can be one next year. 

Justin David Kish: What makes you stand out from the rest of the draft-eligible linebackers headed to the 2019 NFL Draft?

Pete Swenson: I feel I am one of the best pass rushers in college football and have great instincts as a rusher. I can also play the run very well and have a ton of experience in setting the edge as a defensive end as well as an outside linebacker.

Justin David Kish: How was your chemistry with your team in college?

Pete Swenson: It was amazing, Western was a great fit for me. All of my best memories from college were with teammates both on the field and off. 

Justin David Kish: What were you’re on the field responsibilities in college?

Pete Swenson: As my career progressed and I became a more cerebral player, the coaches gave me more responsibility. I became the player who would dictate where the blitz was coming from based on the offensive formation or personal. Also playing on the edge I would be responsible for calling out if the formation was unbalanced or if there was a certain check we needed to get into. I was a key contributor to letting the defensive line know what front we were in and whether or not it was a run or pass based on their formation. 

Justin David Kish: What is one area of your game do you consider your biggest strength?

Pete Swenson: Rushing the passer and just defeating blocks in general. I work on one of the sleds we have every day on my pass rush moves and take great pride in living in the backfield. 

Justin David Kish: What is one area of your game you are improving on?

Pete Swenson: I have been working hard on my pass drops as well as understanding offensive pass routes. Being a converted D-end one thing that I wasn’t used to was route concepts and receiver splits. Once again though being a multi-sport athlete as a kid was a huge help in being able to do multiple things on the field. 

Justin David Kish: When watching the film what are some things you look for and take notes on?

Pete Swenson: The first thing I try to pick up is the stance of an offensive lineman. I like to have a feel for where they are going to go before the ball is snapped. Whether it’s the way there foot is pointing or if they look in the direction they are going to go. I also look at how they like to punch when getting rushed, this will determine what moves I am most likely to try on the lineman. I always like to watch with a coach so if I have questions they can be quickly answered. Another thing that I look for is a team’s favorite run concepts. Teams like to have a certain identity and if you can make them into something they are not and get them out of there personality you have won half the battle. 

Justin David Kish: Name a point during your college career where you overcame adversity and what did you learn from the experience?

Pete Swenson: During the sophomore year we lost the final three games of the season which winning any of the three most likely would have put us in the playoffs. That was a rough start to the offseason but ultimately made me work a lot harder of the offseason. We ended up going 8-3 in the next regular season and I had a very solid year. I learned that you need to finish strong in anything you do. Don’t count your blessings before the season is over. 

Justin David Kish: Outside of football, what does a typical day off look like for you?

Pete Swenson: I really enjoy just reading and relaxing. I try to read a book a week and think it can be very therapeutic. I also take time to recover and help my body. During the season I use my off days to watch as much film as I can to get a step ahead of my competition. 

Justin David Kish: In the next couple of questions, I am going to put you on the line. My first question, if you could compare yourself to any current NFL Linebacker who would it be and why?

Pete Swenson: I really like the way both Khalil Mack and Von Miller play. They both have a wide variety of moves off the edge but are athletic enough as well as smart enough to drop into coverage when need be. I know I have a long way to go to be on their level but those are two guys I look up to a lot and watch a lot of film on. 

Justin David Kish: My final question, if I was an NFL General Manager why should I draft Pete Swenson?

Pete Swenson: If you draft me you know you are getting a guy who is going to work hard every single day. I believe in the idea that you need to prove yourself every single day. I am never satisfied with my current ability. You are going to get a guy who loves football and the process of preparing for a game and a season. I truly believe I am good enough to be an impactful player in the NFL and look forward to getting my opportunity. 

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