On September 26, 2015, recently-instated Texas Longhorns play caller Jay Norvell reached back to his days with the Oklahoma Sooners to revive the Belldozer package in a new form — as the showcase for benched 6’4, 244-pound quarterback Tyrone Swoopes.
On the one-year anniversary of that game, and with another contest looming against the Oklahoma State Cowboys this weekend, new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert is still using the package to great effect.
In the home game against the Pokes last year, Swoopes carried the ball three times for 35 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown run. At that time, the package, as yet unnamed, merely featured a heavy personnel grouping and quarterback counter as the only play.
Eventually, Norvell expanded the package to provide more threats to the defense — the insertion of wide receiver Lorenzo Joe for the rivalry tilt against Oklahoma provided a passing threat, which ultimately led to a key, late touchdown pass from Swoopes to tight end Caleb Bluiett out of the 18-Wheeler package.
Called a variety of names throughout the first several weeks of its inception, including the Swoopesdozer, starting quarterback Jerrod Heard finally revealed the name that stuck in late October — the 18 Wheeler, a reference to the No. 18 that Swoopes wears and his physical running ability.
"When you see him out there you know he's going to break it,” Heard said.
By the end of the season, Swoopes had energized the team, found a comfort zone, and completely reinvented himself as a more confident player who finally understood how to maximize his athletic strengths and minimize his athletic weaknesses.
“I’ve always been comfortable in (this role),” Swoopes said on Monday. “It’s just more experience gives you more comfort in it. At this point, it’s just second nature to go out and execute the play that’s called.”
All told, Swoopes scored 14 rushing touchdowns in 2015 and gained 451 yards at more than six yards per carry.
During the offseason, he once again competed for the starting job, eventually giving way to freshman Shane Buechele. However, instead of pouting about the decision by the coaching staff, Swoopes once again took the news of his back-up role in stride and once again strived to make an impact for the team as the 18 Wheeler.
In the thrilling double-overtime win against Notre Dame to start the season, Swoopes was the hero, bouncing off defenders in overtime on the way to two touchdowns in the extra frames, including the stretching, game-winning run that will remain one of the iconic moments in recent Texas history.
With 13 carries for 53 yards and three touchdowns, the senior played an incredibly key role in the victory and will likely continue to do so for the rest of his final season in burnt orange.
On the goal line, that means being a part of 3,162 pounds of Longhorn coming at opponents. That’s 1.6 tons of mass bearing down on overmatched foes.
So, just a word of caution to the rest of the Big 12 — step in front of the 18 Wheeler at your own peril. Swoopes has some fine leather goods to deliver to the end zone.
Celebrate the one-year anniversary of the 18-Wheeler package with this soft, comfortable t-shirt from Breaking T.