0616 DJ Swearinger

Greenwood native and Arizona Cardinals safety D.J. Swearinger shouts instructions to kids at his sixth annual football camp at Greenwood High.

D.J. Swearinger brought his annual free football camp back to Greenwood High School’s J.W. Babb Stadium on Saturday, and with it came a surprise from Greenwood Mayor Brandon Smith.

Smith, with a key to the city in his hand, presented it to Swearinger and proclaimed June 15 “D.J. Swearinger Day.”

“We’re so grateful to have people that are willing to remember where they came from and come back to help this next generation,” Smith said during his speech. “We’re glad to have spokespeople like D.J. to come in here and be a positive voice.”

Saturday’s camp marked the sixth time that Swearinger — a safety for the Cardinals and a graduate of Greenwood High — has organized the event.

Swearinger said he always appreciates the opportunity to provide the camp and is proud to return to Greenwood each summer to give back.

“Every time I’m back is always a great feeling,” Swearinger said. “Coming back, seeing the smiles on the faces, watching these young kids work hard and try to get to their goals to be successful one day.”

Swearinger said hard work and fighting through adversity is what got him to where he is today, and that’s something he wanted to get across to the campers.

“Greenwood made me,” Swearinger said, as he glanced at the scoreboard and pointed out his state championship banner. “I put in a lot of countless hours on this field right here. State championship banner is up there. I was a part of the 2006 one. I know what these guys are going through, the ups and downs, trials and tribulations.

“Everything they’re going through, I’ve been there and done that. I always want to come back and be a positive role model, and a positive professional figure that they see on TV that they can shake hands and ask questions with.”

The campers participated in drills, learned fundamentals and capped the day with a 40-yard dash that was split into age groups. Swearinger gave a pair of cleats to each camper who won their respective race.

When Swearinger met with all the campers at the end of the day, he told them to listen closely to their elders, always work hard in school and give a wholehearted effort whenever they step on a football field.

“Whenever you come out on this field, or whatever you’re doing in life, you give your whole heart,” Swearinger said. You’ve got to give your whole heart and never half step. Those three things, I try to tell them each year. Every year, (the camp) gets better, and we’re just going to keep it rolling.”

Swearinger, who spent the past two seasons with the Redskins, will make a return to the Cardinals this year. He last played for Arizona in 2016. Swearinger will have a fresh start after being released by the Redskins on Dec. 24, 2018, with one game left in the regular season. He was signed by the Cardinals one day later.

Swearinger said he’s the happiest he’s ever been heading into camp and feels comfortable being back with the Cardinals.

“It’s great,” he said. “Back with Arizona. Happy to be with Arizona. I’m just happy to be where I’m going. I’m on the level up right now, and the Cardinals, we’re on the level up right now. We can’t get any worse than last season, so I’m extremely excited to see where the season takes us.”

Contact sports writer Wesley Dotson at 864-943-2530 or follow him on Twitter @WesleyPDotson.