The Colts, much like the Pacers, have always been characterized as being a blue-collar team. What this means, is a team that will play, gritty, hard-working football, going all out every Sunday and leaving it all on the field. It also means the team will approach a no nonsense way of handling themselves both in their private life and in the media. The opposite of blue-collar would be, say Terrell Owens, or Allen Iverson, guys that certainly had talent but were often outspoken and diva-like.
The Colts seemed to have lost that mantra in the past seasons, being involved in countless off the field issues. It all started with owner Jim Irsay being arrested for DUI, then with Ryan Grigson’s arrogance and ego, all the way down to players having run ins with the law, like Da’Rick Rogers, David Parry, D’Qwell Jackson, Josh McNary among many others. Under Grigson’s tenure, it was no surprise seeing Colts’ players on the news for all the wrong reasons.
But under current GM Chris Ballard, the Colts seem to have drifted away from all that, and starting to look more like the Bill Polian championship teams of the past, at least on the discipline and citizenship part, and this starts with the decision on who to bring aboard the Colts.
Grigson took some fliers on players with red-flags, like Da’Rick Rogers for example. As a wide receiver out of Tennessee Tech, Rogers was considered a talented prospect and he turned in a great combine, but his disciplinary issues, those that led him to get suspended at Tennessee made him go undrafted. After some time in Training Camp with the Bills, Rogers was signed by the Colts. He had his breakout game against Cincy, recording six catches 107 yards and two scores, and many Colts fans like myself still remember that leaping catch against the Chiefs in THAT playoff game. In my opinion, that catch was the beginning of the momentum change that ultimately finished in one of the Colts, and the NFL, greatest comebacks. Still, Rogers was released after being arrested for DUI, and is now playing in the CFL.
Now, Chris Ballard looks like he learnt form Grigson’s mistakes, and is leaning towards drafting high character guys/ guys with a clean past, and has avoided potential disasters.
Take this years draft class for first examination, with the sixth overall pick the Colts selected guard Quenton Nelson, he himself personifies the definition of blue-collar, a dominant both physically and technically offensive lineman that flat out bullies his opposition. Look no further than Nelsons first interview as a Colt, where his answers were almost always less than 10 words. Nelson will put in the work, and he will never run out his mouth on the media.
Then, in the second round, the Colts passed on talented Derrius Guice, despite running back being a position of great need. There were concerns about Guice as a professional as reports emerged that he was violent during an interview with the Eagles, so instead, the Colts selected Darius Leonard and Braden Smith with their second round picks. Smith was actually watching his fiancé in a college softball game when he was drafted, proving he is a low profile guy, that will put in the necessary work required for being in the NFL and be quiet about it, he looks like the profile of person, not only player, the Colts want on their team.
Also, all the players drafted in the later rounds fill the profile of a high-worker, not outspoken player. The Colts don’t seem to want any prima donnas on the locker room right now, just gritty football players.
This model for building out a roster may seem boring, as the flashy, outspoken players usually result on more media attention, more fans on the stands, and probably more jersey sales. But still, those type of players come with a risk. Look at Johnny Manziel, for example. The saying “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” applies perfectly to his situation, or also Tim Tebow, who because of his persona was constantly in the eye of the media.
While this Colts team is still a far cry away from those Super Bowl contenders of the 2000s, Chris Ballard, and now Frank Reich seem to be guiding the team in the right direction. Here is to hoping the Colts can regain their Indiana Blue-Collar mentality.