Give Indianapolis Colts second-year general manager Ryan Grigson credit for his willingness to go the extra mile when it comes to finding prospective players.
Grigson added players last season from the Canadian Football League (inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman) and the Indoor Football League (tight end Dominique Jones). Jones also spent time in the United Football League, as did cornerback Teddy Williams.
So far this year, the Colts have brought in outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, the team’s top draft pick who grew up in Germany, as well as former Kenyan rugby star turned outside linebacking prospect Daniel Adongo as a free agent.
Simply scouting and finding players at American universities just doesn’t cut it anymore. NFL general managers like Grigson are expanding their search net to other countries and other sports.
“I don’t discriminate. I would see guys in those [other professional] leagues where I’d say, ‘Heck, I was in three NFL training camps. That guy can play. Why is he in this league?’ I just figure we scour those leagues as best we can and maybe we look at 250 guys and we find three guys that look like suspects and out of those three suspects, one guy can play,” Grigson explained earlier in the week.
“We had a bunch of guys and that’s a credit to our pro scouts. They actually have part of their job description is to study those other leagues and to get film. It’s getting easier with the technology we have now and the internet and being able to upload those things, but the tape quality is always not that good. But when you’re looking at players from small schools in the same way in the college evaluation process, it takes patience. You have to have guys that are willing to grind. If you have patience and you have a go-getter mindset, like I feel like our scouts have and work so hard, they’re going to find a way to find players.”
During his rise as a talent evaluator in the CFL and NFL, the former Purdue offensive lineman found out where to look for players. He wants the same type of tenacity from the Colts’ scouting staff.
“We don’t have those guys scout those leagues if we don’t want to find anybody,” Grigson said. “Don’t come to me and tell me after you looked at every guy in the CFL, Arena League and the IFL or UFL. Don’t tell me out of 1,000 bodies, we can’t find three guys that have a chance. It’s a numbers game.”
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n Looking beyond the borders — The San Francisco 49ers signed former British Olympic discus-thrower Lawrence Okoye to a free-agent deal in May. Okoye, like Adongo, has never played American-style football before.
Doesn’t matter. Both are exceptional athletes in their respective sports who have talents and the physical attributes that are transferable to their new vocations.
Okoye stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 304 pounds. He also has been timed in the 40-yard dash with a pretty quick time of 4.78 seconds and has a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10-5 broad jump. San Francisco officials hope to turn him into a defensive lineman.
Grigson and the Colts’ defensive coaching staff are gearing up to work with Adongo, who is 6-5 and 257 pounds, and tutor him into becoming a rush outside linebacker. They realize it won’t be easy. He just recently learned how to dress the part.
“Well right now, he’s the 90th man on the roster,” Grigson admitted. “He’s a guy we brought in that has a very raw skill set, obviously. We watched him throw a football for the first time and in about a nano-second we said, ‘You know he’s not a quarterback.’ He had never thrown a football before. But once you start seeing him move around with those long limbs and you see the type of competitor and really the traits he has as a human being and as an athlete, you have something to work with.
“You basically have a lump of clay for these coaches to work with. It’s not like he came from a small school, or he came from a guy that hadn’t played since high school. We’re talking about a guy that hasn’t been able to learn any bad habits because he’s never played. Anything he’s doing, I told them, that’s a bad habit, he must have learned it from you guys [the Colts coaching staff].”
Indianapolis linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald understands his task.
“He’s going to be a little bit on a different learning program. We’ll do the best. We’ll spend extra time with him like that. But we understand that when we’re talking to the veterans and the guys that have been here, it’s going to be well over his head. We can’t change gears for him right now. We can just try to pull him aside, do some extra things with him, coach him hard as best we can,” FitzGerald said.
“There’s going to be a learning curve here. It’s going to take a little bit of time. Nobody’s overly optimistic about that part because it’s just football. And at this level, you know what it’s about. It can be very complicated.”
Despite the inexperience, the Colts think they might have a diamond in the rough with Adongo.
“Size and athletic ability. Smarts. OK, like I said, the canvas is good because you got a guy you feel you’re going to make some good grass with this guy. You’re going to cover grass fast with him. And then you can see the toughness,” the veteran NFL assistant coach voiced.
“You look for certain components in a guy. Is he the full package? I don’t know. He could be. But you like the attributes you have and you know you can build on those. Man, the optimism goes out the roof. But you have to be patient as well to make this happen.”
• Bethea misses practice — Free safety Antoine Bethea had a good reason for being absent from Tuesday’s two practices.
Bethea became a father for the first time early Tuesday morning.
“Yeah, proud new papa, proud new papa, and congratulations to Antoine and his significant other, brand new baby girl. He texted me earlier [Tuesday] morning. They were induced last night and had the baby [Tuesday] morning,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano mentioned.
“A little girl, 5 pounds 18 inches. [Bethea] didn’t give me any ounces. We’ve got our newest cheerleader. A new Colts cheerleader. Congratulations to him. That’s awesome.”
• Injury list — Rookie center Khaled Holmes (ankle) safety Sergio Brown (hamstring) and inside linebacker Scott Luttrus (knee) left Tuesday afternoon’s practice early with injuries.
Sitting out the workout were rookie offensive guard Hugh Thornton (ankle), nose tackle Martin Tevasue (shoulder), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot), nose tackle Brandon McKinney (knee) and rookie safety John Boyett (knees).
McKinney has been placed on injured reserve. He missed the 2012 season with a knee injury. Inside linebacker C.O. Prime was released earlier in the afternoon and then re-signed later in the day when McKinney was placed on IR.
n McNary arrives — Outside linebacker Josh McNary, signed by the Colts last spring, was reinstated from the reserve/military list and has been added to the team’s 90-man training camp roster. He went through his first practice with the team Tuesday afternoon.
McNary was discharged from the Army over the last few days, allowing him an opportunity to pursue a career in the NFL. A former defensive standout at West Point, McNary had hoped to be available to begin working out with the team last spring.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “The team as a whole has a lot of character. It’s something that I’d love to be a part of. The turnaround last season spoke for itself with what the team’s capable of. That’s really what sold me.
“That and then coach Pagano and Mr. Grigson telling me how I could contribute, that pretty much sold me on wanting to be a part of the Colts.”
• Hilton to sign with Titans — According to The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, the Tennessee Titans plan to sign former Indiana State wide receiver Justin Hilton.
Hilton worked out for the Titans on Tuesday. He was with the Cincinnati Bengals last season and most recently the Arena Football League’s Tampa Bay Storm. The New England Patriots also were reportedly interested in Hilton’s services.