Mention Pete Swenson’s hometown in north-central Iowa, and the Western Illinois linebacker will tell you about one of the coolest Fourth of July celebrations around.
Swenson has provided plenty of fireworks on the field this season, leading the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 14 sacks and 23 tackles for loss.
In this edition of Prairie State Pigskin’s Moving the Chains feature, Swenson also shared what he learned early in his career as a tight end, his love of steak, which teammate offers plenty of inspiration and a new addition on campus in Macomb.
In high school, you played five different sports. How did you pull that off?
We have baseball in the summer in Iowa. I played soccer as a freshman in the spring, then the three years after that was track. (He also played four years of football and basketball.)
When you talk to people about your hometown of Mason City, Iowa, what’s one thing you always mention?
Just the summer atmosphere and how the nearby town of Clear Lake doubles in population size, especially during the Fourth of July. It’s a can’t-miss event in that area. Clear Lake has a giant lake. They bring a carnival to town and they have fireworks on the lake. Everyone sits around the beach and watches the fireworks over the lake. It’s a really cool experience. I’ve taken a few teammates up there.
This has been a great year for you with sacks and tackles for loss? When you watch film, how are those coming this season?
With sacks, it comes on third downs. I start drooling and pinning my ears back, getting excited. When I know it’s a pass or I know I can get into the backfield, I watch the offensive lineman’s stance. A lot of O-lineman will give up what they’re going to do on a play based on their stance and where they’re looking. I try to pick those things up on film. Then, when it comes to the game, I know what’s going to happen.
Other than WIU, what are your favorite uniforms in the Missouri Valley?
I really like Illinois State, especially when they go all red. I like that a lot. And North Dakota State is just classic. It kind of looks like the Green Bay Packers, but it’s their own style.
Do you have a favorite spot on campus?
One thing I’m really excited about is our Union just opened a Chick-fil-A on Halloween. I plan on spending a little bit of time there. I’m sure it will be packed for the next couple of weeks.
If there’s one food you could eat every day, what would it be?
Steak. 100 percent.
Who is your most inspirational teammate?
(Senior quarterback) Sean McGuire, because he brings it every day and he’s a tremendous leader. You know what you’re going to get from Sean, which is his absolute best.
When you first arrived at WIU, you were a tight end. How did switching to linebacker come about?
Being a tight end my redshirt year helped me more than any other year in my development on defense, just learning how people block and using your hands to defeat blocks. Using momentum, different leverage points and all that stuff helped.
Who was the first teammate you interacted with after your decision to come to Western?
The first person was Sean McGuire. When I committed and put it on social media, Sean sent me a message congratulating me. He told me he was excited and ready to get to work. When I met him in person, he was the same person – always positive, ready to go, always wants to get better, pushing others to get better. He’s a tremendous leader.