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Caleb Swanigan was adopted by former NFL linebacker Roosevelt Barnes

Joshua Rogers June 21, 2022
2017 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot
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After the tragic news former Portland Trail Blazers forward Caleb Swanigan has died aged 25, fans want to know more about his parents and adoption by Roosevelt Barnes.

Caleb Swanigan has passed away at the age of 25, according to multiple reports. Swanigan died of natural causes, the Allen County Coroner’s Office confirmed, as reported by Aaron Organ, of WANE 15 (via The Athletic).

Swanigan was a former Big Ten Player Of The Year and played for the Purdue Boilermakers in college for two years. “The world lost a gentle soul last night,” Purdue stated in a tribute on Twitter:

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He was selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers and spent three seasons in the NBA.

Swanigan had a troubled childhood and an incredibly difficult upbringing and was eventually adopted by former Detroit Lions linebacker Roosevelt Barnes.

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Caleb Swanigan’s parents and tough upbringing

The former NBA player was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 18 April 1997. Caleb Swanigan’s parents are Carl Swanigan Sr and mother Tanya.

The youngster endured an awfully hard upbringing. Per Bleacher Report, his dad Carl was a crack cocaine addict who often went months without seeing his six children, while his mother didn’t have a steady job and was living on food stamps and welfare checks.

According to the outlet, Caleb’s mother eventually moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, with her children after leaving Carl. For the next decade, the family bounced between Indianapolis and Utah, and it was during this time Caleb experienced homelessness.

He had lived in five different homeless shelters and attended 13 schools by the time he was 13 years of age. His father died in 2014 from complications related to diabetes.

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Caleb Swanigan was adopted by former NFL player Roosevelt Barnes

When he was 13, Caleb Swanigan was adopted by Roosevelt Barnes, a retired linebacker for the Detroit Lions. Barnes was Swanigan’s former AAU basketball coach and was living in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the time, close to where Caleb and his mom were living in Houston.

He was contacted by Caleb’s older brother, Carl Jr, and agreed to take Caleb in prior to his 8th grade year. Caleb inherited weight issues from his father that would affect him throughout his life. Barnes addressed his eating habits and got him exercising and, by the time he finished high school, Caleb was much leaner.

What we know about Roosevelt Barnes

Roosevelt Barnes was excellent in three sports at Purdue University – football, basketball and baseball – and starred on Purdue’s 1980 Final Four team. After Purdue, Barnes continued his football career. He was a 10th round draft pick for the Detroit Lions and played three years for the franchise.

Now, he is a sports agent and Independent Sports & Entertainment’s co-president. In an interview with the New York Business Journal in 2017, he remembered the night Carl Jr asked him to adopt Caleb.

Barnes told the publication: “Carl said, ‘You need to come get my brother so he doesn’t end up like the rest of us.’ I said, ‘You can bring him out to Fort Wayne but, if he comes out, it has to be a situation where I adopt him. I am going to treat him like my own child. Because that is the only way it is going to work.’

“And he came out. He had a big duffel bag with all his possessions in it. He had a blue shirt on and khaki pants and a tie. I said ‘Wow, he’s got a shirt and tie on.’ He wanted to make a good first impression. He was 13. He was about 6ft 2in and about 360lb.”

Barnes added he had two rules for Caleb – that he got good grades and kept his room clean.

“I would tell him, ‘You are going to be the best college forward in the world,'” he added.

Our thoughts are with Caleb’s friends and family at this incredibly difficult time.

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.