There’s no question who the recipient of the game ball was on Saturday. Junior receiver Freddie Swain accomplished something no Gator more than 30 years — predating Swain himself — had done.
Swain caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter and returned a punt for a touchdown early on in the fourth quarter becoming the first player since at least 1980 to do both for the Gators in a single game. The 85-yard punt return was the fourth longest in school history and the longest since Antonio Callaway returned a punt 85-yards for a score against Alabama in the 2015 SEC Championship game.
“That guy had a really good day today,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “Just an excellent day, playing all-around; touchdown pass, his routes, obviously a big punt return. I’ve seen what kind of works he puts in during the offseason and it’s all starting to show, just how hard he has been working.”
Swain didn’t have much of a role his first two seasons. He caught eight passes each season for a combined 214 yards and three touchdowns. This season he already has six receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns. He’s been a reliable target for Feleipe Franks ad his role as a punt returner, which was highly questioned before the season, has been a bright spot early on.
Swain has worked on his craft and he’s not short of confidence either, calling his touchdown to Mullen before it happened.
“I just have a lot of confidence in what I do,” Swain said. “I told him, ‘don’t even dial one up. I’m gonna take this one to the house.’”
It turned out he was one early. Swain told Mullen that on the punt before his touchdown but the confidence is there.
The commitment to special teams is new to Florida with Mullen but it’s made a huge difference already.
“Most importantly when you look at the three phases I think we really, we won the special teams phase of that game,” Mullen said. “The one thing, I love that, a team headed in the right direction. Special teams is a lot of effort deal. There’s a lot of effort that goes into special teams.”
Swain has found a home on special teams and his play there is getting him more opportunities this season. It won’t be long before he surpasses his career receiving totals this season. Swain has found a home in the slot and a home on special teams.