Derius Swinton II attributes his special teams career path to Tom McMahon.
After spending two seasons as a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee, Swinton was hired by the St. Louis Rams as a quality control coach. McMahon, who was the Rams special teams coordinator at the time, handpicked Swinton to take under his wing.
"He said, 'I want you,'" Swinton recalled. "He hired me right away, and I dove in. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Once I was in it, I fell in love with it. It's an aspect of the game that doesn't get a lot of glitz and glamour, but you're a vital part of the game when you do it the right way."
Swinton hasn't veered from special teams since. The former two-sport athlete at Hampton University stayed with the Rams from 2009-11. Swinton then spent the 2012 season with the Kansas City Chiefs in the same role.
The Denver Broncos hired and promoted Swinton in 2013 to special teams assistant. After two seasons in the "Mile High City," Swinton transitioned to the Chicago Bears in 2015 with head coach John Fox.
Swinton said his three years spent with Fox will leave a lasting impact on his coaching style.
"When I think about 'Foxy,' the one thing I remember is that he would always say, 'I'm not going to treat you all the same, but I'm going to treat you fair,'" Swinton remembered. "That's the one thing I take from him, because you can't treat them all the same.
"They're all different: some have this skill set or that skill set. But I'm going to treat them all fair at the end of the day. That's the one thing I think I took away from him."
Every special teams coordinator around the league has different ways of motivating players and attracting them to the third – and much less publicized – phase of the game. In addition to special teams often times serving as the tiebreaker when deciding determining roster spots, Swinton has his own motivators.
"The thing I tell every player is, 'There are only 22 guys that start the game that we can call 'starters,' and they play special teams,'" Swinton said. "I'm yet to see a game that doesn't start with a kickoff or a kickoff return. That's my selling point to a lot of guys."
Swinton also noted that some of the NFL's best players got their start on special teams. "I had (Rams defensive lineman) Robert Quinn rushing punts when Tom and I were in St. Louis. Then you have Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Chris Harris, who just won a Super Bowl. I was with Harris, and he started as a gunner. Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the league, but he began his career returning punts."
Now at just 30 years old, the rising star in the coaching ranks has his first crack at being an NFL coordinator.
"When Chip (Kelly) gave me the call I was excited," Swinton said. "It was my first opportunity to interview with him. It was six hours of grinding it out and going through schemes. I think we connected right away.
"It was a fun process to go through, and I was happy when he offered (the job) to me. I think I accepted probably before he even finished his sentence."