"The mistakes that guys make don't so much bother me. I don't think the Ravens have ever looked at the mistakes that their players have made as bothersome and that guy is despicable," Swayne said. "I know the places that some of these young men are in. Some of them are very healthy places, but some of them are in very difficult circumstances. A lot of stress, job-related. Off-the-field stuff just with their family alone adds more variables that really could be a setup to a bad decision.
"We hold our athletes culturally to a much higher standard than we would ever think about holding ourselves to. I think in a lot of ways because I know what's coming on a particular player, I'm willing to come to his side despite the mistakes that he made. He needs to know that we're not just kicking him to the curb."
Swayne insists that he made the same mistakes that NFL players are making nowadays. He also keeps in mind the transition that kids are making going from college to the NFL, a jump he calls "almost unfair." He entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick out of Rutgers, and he managed to stay in the league for parts of three decades after changing positions — from defensive end to offensive tackle — as a rookie.
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"Harry can relate to almost everything our players go through," Newsome said. "Harry has been a rookie, a veteran to a new team; he has changed positions, moved his family and even been released. He has experienced it all. … He has a keen eye and knows what type of player and person fits our Ravens profile. Once we make a rookie a Raven, the program Harry directs is as good or better than any in the league. It's like he's giving the players, in a short time, a masters in how to be a pro and be responsible for those around you."
Said Rice: "Year in and year out, I kind of walk by his office and tell him that everything that he's taught me as a pro has surfaced over the six years that I've been in the NFL. I just thank him for giving me the knowledge and the tools not just to be a great football player, but to be great on and off the field. Having him around, a guy who played in the NFL, a guy who has wisdom and is not going to B.S. anything for you, that's a great thing."
When ex-NFL player Tyrone Keys founded a nonprofit mentoring and scholarship organization called "All Sports Community Service" that helps challenged youth in Tampa, Fla., attend college, his former Buccaneers teammate was the first to step up and serve as a sponsor.
Swayne helped several students, including a young man named Thomas "T.J." Lewis who went to what was formerly known as Queens College (N.C). Lewis now lives in Baltimore and is the senior vice president of strategy and business development at Urban Lending Solutions. The same kid who Swayne would arrange to come to Ravens games as a kid wound up advising Swayne years later when his NFL career was winding down.
Swayne, Lewis recalled, was pondering a potential career in banking after his playing career was done.
"Harry has been called to be in the ministry, and this is his ministry. This is his lane," Keys said. "He's definitely in his calling."
At least once a year, Vincent brings up the question to Swayne: "Is this where you want to be?"
"I say that because I see other great things in him because he touches so many different areas," Vincent said. "If he wanted to go directly into human resources, he could do that. He understands employee policy, employee law. He understands the community, the importance of fans, the corporate interests. I think there is a greater thing for Harry. The sky is the limit."
Swayne, though, loves the relationships he's built and the environment that Newsome and his staff perpetuate. During a 40-minute interview, he acknowledged that he initially had no visions of becoming a player development director. He was more than happy in Chicago, where he spent five seasons as the Bears' team chaplain, but the struggles of a close friend and former teammate brought him back to Baltimore.
"O.J.'s case was an extenuating circumstance," Swayne said. "I'm now talking to guys about transitioning after their final play in the NFL. Me and O.J. talked about his last day talking, his last day being able to swallow, his last day walking. When you're talking about the transition for O.J. Brigance, from holding a pen to not, from walking to being in a wheelchair, and now what I'm doing is helping guys transition away from the game so they can work into another job? That really was like my job/shadow internship to prepare me for this position here. I went from caring for O.J. to caring for 60-some odd guys."
Harry Swayne file
NFL: Played 15 seasons as an offensive lineman with five teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1987-1990), San Diego Chargers (1991-1996), Denver Broncos (1997-1998), Ravens (1999-2000), Miami Dolphins (2001).
Post-NFL career: Was the Chicago Bears' team chaplain in 2003-2007; was hired by the Ravens as assistant director of player programs in 2008. Promoted to director of player development in 2010.
Career highlights: Has four Super Bowl rings, two with the Broncos (1997-1998) and two with the Ravens (2000 as player, 2012 as executive).
Personal: Swayne and his wife, Dawn, have five children: daughters Tosca (14), Sheri (9) and Nina (8) and sons Chris (13) and Rod (6).
Quote: "What helps Harry get close to our players is the type of person he is. He is far, honest and kind. He wants to help players succeed on and off the field. Our guys recognize that in him." — Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome