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Asaph Schwapp: Muscle Man

Dan Murphy | Friday, November 21, 2008

At six feet tall, 260 pounds, Asaph Schwapp is an imposing figure, and that’s after losing weight during the offseason.

Despite dropping nearly 20 pounds last winter, Notre Dame’s fullback remains a bruising force on the field – a force that is perhaps topped only by his handiwork in the weight room. Schwapp is widely regarded at the team’s strongest player. This summer, he bench pressed 530 pounds, that is more than double his body weight.

“Yeah, I still hold that title,” Schwapp said. “I love bench pressing and that type of stuff.”

Schwapp said he’s been a gym rat since his days in high school and still likes to get in a few extra sets in the off-season after he is done with the team’s regularly-scheduled lifts.

“I do the program with the team and then I have some stuff my high school coaches showed me that I’ll do over in Rolfs [Fitness Center],” he said.

Schwapp has gotten so big that he has to redo some of the tattoos on his biceps. His right arm now features a trio of Aces – in honor of his nickname – originally, he only had the canvas for one.

“The centerpiece was my first tattoo, but my arm got a little too big so I had to add some to fill it out a little bit,” Schwapp said.

The Aces are hardly the most important ink that Schwapp has on his big frame. A pair of tattoos on his inner forearms reminds him daily of his family. On the left arm, the Latin translation of “United in Brotherhood” spans a banner above his initials.

On the right arm, is a portrait of his mother, Evelyn, who died of cancer when Schwapp was only nine years old.

“It was tough but I learned to deal with it,” he said. “I believe it made me a stronger person.”

Schwapp said that the picture on his arm serves as a constant reminder of her and drives him to succeed in everything that he does.

“I always think she’s looking over me and wants me to do the best, so I always try to do the best,” he said.

After his mother’s death, Schwapp was raised by his aunt and uncle who encouraged him to play football.

“I always liked football, but my uncle used to always want me to play because he figured I would make a good football player,” he said.

Schwapp’s uncle will be in town this weekend for his nephew’s last pep rally and home game.

On the field

Schwapp has also had to deal with his fair share of adversity on the field during his career at Notre Dame.

As a freshman, he was thrown right into the mix appearing in all 12 Irish games that year. He racked up 67 yards on 27 carries including eight in his biggest game of the year against BYU. The Irish won that game 49-23.

Schwapp looked like he would continue to be a major part of the Irish offense at the start of his sophomore season. However, his season ended less than two games in against Penn State.

Late in third quarter of a 41-17 win over the Nittany Lions, Notre Dame ran a toss play and Schwapp was hit awkwardly, aggravating an old knee injury. This time, it required surgery that would leave him on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

“It definitely set me back a little bit, but I worked it out and rehabbed pretty hard and I was able to get back into the swing on things,” Schwapp said.

After surgery in October, it was back to the familiar confines of the weight room. He put in two or three sessions every day in order to rebuild some of the strength he had lost in his legs. Schwapp did countless hamstring and quadriceps workouts to regain the muscle mass he lost as a result of the surgery.

“It wasn’t fun,” he said. “It was tough, I had never had anything like that in my life, never had surgery in my life. It took some getting used to.”

Schwapp’s hard work put him back on the field at full strength for the season opener in 2007 against Georgia Tech.

“It was great not having to wear that knee brace anymore and being able to run with no worries,” Schwapp said.

With the brace gone, Schwapp was able to get back to doing what he loves the most – making holes.

In 36 career games, No. 44 has racked up exactly 44 carries for 99 yards, but that’s just fine with him. Schwapp said he gets the most joy out of leading the way for his fellow running backs.

“I’m always fired up to play, every time I hit the field I’m just trying to bash somebody,” he said.

That’s the way it’s been for the senior since his days playing midget football in Hartford, Conn.

“I was always a blocking fullback just because I was pretty good at it,” he said.

When he moved up to high school football at Weaver High School in Hartford, Schwapp continued to focus on blocking. But his strength and speed allowed him to stack up some impressive numbers despite the minimal amount of touches. As a junior he rushed for over 1,300 yards, averaging 12 yards per carry.

“I really didn’t carry the ball more than six or seven times in a game until my senior year, so that really didn’t take any getting used to here,” Schwapp said.

His senior year he racked up another 1,100 yards on his way to being named Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

Schwapp’s hard-nosed style of play is slowly disappearing from the game, especially at the next level. Spread offenses and limited player rosters have caused most NFL teams to cut down to one or no true fullbacks on their rosters. Schwapp isn’t discouraged.

“I’m still trying to turn this into a career,” he said. “I think I’m good at what I do and if I can get to a team that will use a fullback, I think they’ll like me.”

Schwapp is scheduled to graduate this May, but because of his injury he is eligible for one more year with the team. He has decided not to make the decision about whether or not he will apply for a fifth year until after this season comes to a close.

Whether he decides to enter the draft or not, Schwapp still has at least one more game at Notre Dame Stadium and right now that’s all that’s on his mind.

“It’s gonna be emotional for a lot of guys and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was pretty emotional for me too,” he said. “Even if I do end up playing next year, it’s the last time I’ll be playing with a lot of these guys.”

The senior said it’s just starting to hit home that this could be the end of the road.

“First thing that goes through my mind is, man I’m getting old. Time flies,” he said.

Schwapp said that he feels that he has grown up a lot in the past four years. His time at Notre Dame has prepared him for whatever is next whether it is a trip to the NFL or another year in South Bend trying to push that bench press up to 540.