Justin Swider has never been one to back down from a challenge. Not only is he a two-sport athlete at Wheaton College, now he is also recognized as one of the best in both sports.
After the football season Swider was named to the all-CCIW and all-region teams, a feat he duplicated after this spring's baseball season.
"It never really crossed my mind to specialize," Swider said. "It's always been my mentality that I was going to make it work no matter what it takes. People always ask me what my favorite sport is. My favorite sport is the season I'm in."
The success hasn't come easy for the junior, despite how he makes it look. However, it may be even more difficult on his father, longtime Wheaton College football coach Mike Swider. The coach knows he puts extra pressure on his son, but only because he can handle it.
This year Justin Swider took a step forward in importance for the football team and was named to the CCIW all-conference team and the D3football.com all-region team as a kick returner. Justin Swider had 312 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season. He also ranked in the top 15 in the country in return average with 26.85 yards a return.
As the baseball season rolled around Justin Swider was much less of an unknown. As a sophomore he was named to the all-region and all-conference teams, which created a different kind of pressure altogether.
Justin Swider found himself hitting from the No. 4 spot in the lineup most of the season, much higher than the previous year. He also made a move defensively from second base to left field.
The switches seemed to be showing early in the season, but after a slow start Justin Swider brought his average up to .320 with nearly two times more RBI and stolen bases than the year before, earning inclusion on the all-conference and all-region teams for the second time that school year.
The relationship between father and son is of fundamental importance in Justin Swider's success. Justin Swider said one of the main reasons he's been able to play both sports is because of his dad's ability to balance both coaching and parenting responsibilities. The elder Swider, however, praises his son's calm focus as the driving factor.
"He's just a real laid-back, relaxed kid, a hard worker but relaxed kid," Mike Swider said. "He responds exceedingly well to pressure, so you knew (his success) was coming sooner or later."
When football season ended, the drive the two showed didn't. Swider said both his dad and baseball coach Matt Husted coach in a similar fashion, making the transition easier. Also, the football coach doesn't mind picking up a baseball if it helps his son out.
The thought of focusing on just one sport is something that hasn't crossed the mind of either of the two. In fact Mike Swider encourages it, helping his son with baseball whenever he needs.
"I still throw a little extra batting practice to him on the weekends," Mike Swider said. "It's just one of those joys of being a dad. It's the American dream to throw batting practice for your son. I've been doing that since he was 6 or 7, and just today he asked me to throw to him as a 21-year-old. It's a pretty special feeling."
While the coach is cautious at putting up any goals for his son, Justin Swider has set some rather lofty ones on his own. In addition to repeating as conference co-champion on the football team and making the NCAA playoffs, he also hopes to return the Thunder to the CCIW baseball tournament and win it all. On top of that, Justin Swider wants to be an All-America his senior year.
In both sports.