By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — After meeting with Indianapolis Colts officials during a pre-draft visit to the team’s headquarters earlier this month, former Louisiana State running back Joseph Addai knew that there was a fairly good chance that he might end up with the defending AFC South champions.
Once the New England Patriots snatched up Minnesota’s Laurence Maroney and the Carolina Panthers plucked Memphis’ DeAngelo Williams with the 21st and 27th picks, respectively, the Colts were able to get the guy that they had coveted since February’s National Football Scouring Combine.
Of course — before the 5-foot-11, 214-pound Addai could officially become the first running back selected by Indianapolis in the first round since Edgerrin James — there were more than a few anxious moments for team president Bill Polian and Coach Tony Dungy. In fact, the Colts had contemplated making a move up from the 30th spot but couldn’t find any takers.
“We were trying to get ahead of the running back run, which came exactly where we expected it would. But as it turned out, that didn’t materialize. It was very difficult to make deals. There were very few opportunities to move up. Somebody asked me the other day how accurate was our [draft] board. Too accurate. They came off exactly as we thought they would. So there were no names left up in the first round. But we’re happy to get him,” Polian said Saturday.
So sure of their choice, the Colts didn’t waste much time making their pick. Little over five minutes into their allotted 15-minute time limit, the decision was made.
“There was no need to sit and wait for a trade down,” Polian admitted. “We decided [Saturday] morning that [Addai] was the guy we wanted and hoped that he would get to us. When he did, there’s no need to wait. Make the pick and go.”
In opting to bring Addai to Indianapolis, the Colts are hopeful that they’ve found the player who can help fill the large vacuum left by the free agent departure of James to the Arizona Cardinals.
“We feel has all the attributes necessary to succeed at this level. He runs the fastest of all the backs in the draft at 4.43 [seconds]. [He’s] 5-11, 214 pounds, so he’s exactly the same size as Edgerrin. [He] has many of the same attributes,” Polian said.
“I’m not trying to make him Edgerrin. As I said on Thursday, that’s far too heavy a burden for any back to carry. But he is a very good blocker, a very good receiver and a very hard running, speedy, shifty back. So I think the fans are going to like what they see. We’re very happy to get him.”
An option quarterback in high school, the Houston, Texas native proved to be a versatile player while at LSU as he saw playing time as a wide receiver, fullback and running back. Addai ran for 781 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior for the Tigers.
“He does everything well. He catches the ball exceptionally well. He’s been a wide receiver. He knows how to run [pass] routes. He blocks very well. He’s a very tough guy,” Polian said. “He played fullback as a freshman at LSU. He’s been moved around and understands concepts very well. He can block, he can catch, he can run routes.
“I think all of America saw in the  Peach Bowl game what he can do when he runs the football. In three quarters of a game, he had 124 yards and a couple of touchdowns, if I’m not mistaken. He’s a talented runner. As far as his character is concerned, it’s sterling. We talked with people who coached him at LSU and people who had been there and recruited him. The coach that recruited him, who’s no longer at LSU, called us and said this is a guy who would want to think about.”
According to Polian, the Colts interest in Addai is simple — they like the way he approaches the game.
“He’s a guy that will move the pile all the time. He’s gonna get three and four [yards] when there’s a pile. But when there’s daylight, he’s getting 15 and 20 [yards]. So if it’s blocked, if you block 12, he’s likely to get 20 or 25 [yards]. That’s where the yardage comes from,” he said.
“And he does well in the passing game too because he catches it so well and can turn up. He’s what we haven’t here in a while in terms of taking an eight-yard run that’s blocked and turning it into a 22-yard run. He can do that.”
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n Patience first — Dungy acknowledged Saturday that fans and media alike will attempt to make comparisons between Addai and James. But the Colts coach asked for a bit of patience.
“When we looked at the job description of our running back, we just thought this was the most qualified guy. A guy who could do a lot of things, block very well, catch balls out of the backfield, run inside, run outside, speed to make long runs. He can do it,” the Indianapolis coach said.
“I think the thing we have to be careful of is that we don’t just try to make this guy Edgerrin James. He’s going to have a lot of pressure on him because of Edgerrin leaving. And we’ve just got to let him be who he is and he’ll be fine. But he’s going to be a very good player. He’s a solid citizen. He’s a great worker. He’s played on an [NCAA] national championship team. He’s a winner. He played on a great team in high school. He just had everything that you look for and we’re happy to have him.”
n Knee problems not a concern — Polian and Dungy didn’t seem to be concerned that past knee problems might hinder Addai’s development with the Colts.
According to one report, the former LSU running back suffered a torn anterior ligament in his right knee as a freshman in 2001 and underwent arthroscopic surgery on the same knee for a medial collateral ligament injury in 2003.
“I spoke to [Colts orthopedic surgeon] Dr. [Tom] Klootwyk [Saturday] morning just to be sure that everything was okay,” Polian said. “Dr. Klootwyk’s remark was that the knee is absolutely fine. There is no evidence of arthritis or anything of that nature.”
n Colts select Jennings, Keiaho in second and third rounds — The Colts selected Georgia cornerback Tim Jennings in the second and third rounds Saturday.
Jennings may be small in stature (5-8, 185), but Polian and Dungy compared him to Indianapolis safety Bob Sanders in terms of playing style.
“We’ve had pretty good success with that Volkswagen bus crowd,” the Indianapolis coach joked. “Bob Sanders, Robert Mathis, Jason David, Dwight Freeney have all been pretty good for us. Tim will fit right in. He’s a very physical player who played in a physical conference. He played against good people his whole career and he’s going to do well.”
“He’s a guy that can really run. He was under 4.4, 4.38 for the 40. He has really good quickness. He is tough, a good tackler and played extensively there in their nickel package. We think it’s an upgrade in the secondary for us,” he said.
“He’s a guy we were hoping to get to us. We have always believed you can never have enough cornerbacks. He’s a guy that’s going to be a contributor for us.”
Indianapolis used its third round pick to select San Diego State linebacker Freddie Keiaho. The 5-11, 232-pounder started at middle linebacker for the Aztecs last season, but can also play on the outside. He had 18 tackles in a loss to Ohio State as a senior,
n Indiana players taken — Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, a native of Santa Claus, Ind., was selected by Denver with the 11th pick in the first round. The Broncos originally had the 15th selection in the first round but traded up with the St. Louis Rams for the opportunity to take Cutler.
Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwaunka, who attended Indianapolis Cathedral High School, was drafted by the New York Giants with the 32nd pick of the first round. The Giants had obtained the pick in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Notre Dame tight end Anthony Fasano went to the Dallas Cowboys with the 53rd overall pick in the second round. Purdue safety Bernard Pollard was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the second round with the 54th overall pick. Pollard went to Fort Wayne South High School
Boston College offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood, a high school teammate of Kiwaunka at Cathedral, was drafted 59th in the second round by Tampa Bay. Also, Western Michigan tight end Tony Scheffler — who went to Denver with the 61st pick in the second round — is a cousin of former Purdue basketball player Steve Scheffler.
Notre Dame wide receiver Maurice Stovall went to Tampa Bay with the 90th overall pick in the third round.