KEARNEY, NE — The UNK football team needed a big play to put away a scrappy Missouri Southern team to win the season opener.

With the Lopers clinging to a three-point lead in the fourth quarter, senior safety and team captain Darius Swanson stepped up. His pick-six came after the Lions hit a couple slants against Swanson earlier in the game. 

“The coaches were able to help walk me through being able to identify when they’re trying to hit it and what to look for for that," Swanson said. "Then when we came out, I was able to recognize all the keys coaches pointed me on, and then it was just up to making a play.”

It’s no surprise seeing Swanson make the play. UNK fans have watched him grow from his redshirt season to earning All-American status last season.

“It’s just all about putting 100% into everything that I’ve done," Swanson said. "You can’t take days off in the weight room and always trying to attack the film room.”

Despite his success, Head Coach Josh Lynn says you won’t hear Swanson talking about himself.

“Talking with him, he’s the most humble kid I’ve probably ever coached," Lynn said. "He’s all business and just a good kid to have around your program.”

“That’s actually a great thing to hear. I appreciate that a lot, I’ll go thank him when we go in," Swanson said. "I just be chilling, that’s the only way to put it.”

But there was no chilling when working out with his dad while growing up. Mark Swanson played safety at the University of Utah and is a sports performance coach.

“My dad’s my role model, so growing up I just wanted to be just like him. He had a shot at the NFL but got injured and wasn’t able to make it. One of my personal goals has always been to make it so I could accomplish something that my dad wasn’t able to,” Swanson said.

Lynn says his star safety absolutely has a chance at the next level. But for Swanson, his focus is on helping his team reach its goals.

“We know that we have the right team, we have the right guys around us and we can go far, but we just have to keep working," Swanson said. "This whole spring ball, summer weights and winter weights, everyone’s just been working because we know that it’s possible, it’s a reality now so we just have to go seize it.”

UNK kicks off against Pitt St. at 7:00 on Thursday.