Redshirt sophomore Ryan Swoboda is expected to be among the starting offensive linemen when the Virginia Cavaliers kick off the season at Pitt next weekend.
Turns out he almost never made it to his first training camp on Grounds.
Jeff White wrote about Swoboda’s harrowing journey on VirginiaSports.com: about how Swoboda collapsed during a 2017 conditioning session with an internal core temperature of 109 degrees (heat stroke is anything over 104); about how doctors had to put Swoboda in a medically induced coma for weeks; about how the long path back to the football field started with treadmill sessions, walking 10 minutes at a time, that still left Swoboda breathless and exhausted.
It’s a side of Swoboda’s story most fans have never known before (including yours truly). But it puts him in the company of former UVA linebacker Malcolm Cook, whose football career in Charlottesville was jeopardized by a similarly dire health condition.
The story is also a testament to Virginia’s athletic training and medical staffs. Severe heat stroke during off-season workouts claims the lives of multiple football players around the country every year. Less than a year after Swoboda collapsed on a practice field in Charlottesville, Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed in College Park. McNair died after, as Maryland acknowledged, the Terrapins’ athletic trainers failed to react quickly enough.
The most high-profile heat stroke death in football was Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer, who died in 2001 during an offseason workout. Swoboda’s treatment was helped by experts at the Korey Stringer Institute, a clinic at the University of Connecticut founded specifically to research exertional heat stroke and develop protocols for prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Swoboda—standing six feet, ten inches tall—is a sight hard to miss when he’s on the field. After learning what he's been through in his UVA career, he’ll be a welcome sight for Hoos fans this season.