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Posted Apr 30, 2013

After selecting seven players in last week’s draft, the Colts have added nine undrafted collegiate free agents. Some players who joined the team via this route had great careers.

INDIANAPOLIS – The draft has come and gone and after the selection of seven players from the process, another nine have been added as undrafted free agents – OT-Emmett Cleary (Boston College), K-Brandon McManus (Temple), RB-Dan Moore (Montana), RB-Denodus O’Bryant (Lindenwood), CB-Sheldon Price (UCLA), LB-C.O. Prime (Wagner), WR-Rodrick Rumble (Idaho State), WR-Lanear Sampson (Baylor) and CB-Daxton Swanson (Sam Houston State).

 

The players tied with the second-most regular-season wins in franchise history, John Unitas and Jeff Saturday (132), came to the Colts as free agents.

 

Sure, Unitas was drafted in the ninth round by Pittsburgh in 1955, but he was cut unceremoniously and cost the Colts only an 80-cent phone call to sign. 

 

Saturday followed the same rocky path into the NFL and while it stopped short of Canton, he wrote himself into Colts lore, too, by playing 13 seasons on teams that won multiple division titles and one World Championship.

 

For the record, one of the players tied for the fourth-most regular-season wins, Justin Snow (127), played 12 seasons, two shy of matching the most by any player in the club’s Indianapolis era.

 

Snow is tied with Reggie Wayne, a first-round 2001 pick, while Manning (141), also a first-rounder (1998), is the only player with more wins in a Colts uniform than Unitas or Saturday.

 

Those five guys signify the extremes of how players can begin an NFL career.

 

Will McManus unseat Adam Vinatieri, one of the game’s greatest performers?  I don’t know.

 

Do I think so?  I’ll take the Fifth. 

 

One previous undrafted free agent kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, unseated incumbent kicker Cary Blanchard in 1998.

 

Blanchard at 82.9 percent was the most accurate kicker in franchise history, but Vanderjagt zoomed by him to become the Colts’ all-time leading scorer, retiring as then the most accurate kicker in NFL history at 86.5 percent.

 

In the Colts’ 29 seasons in Indianapolis, many free agents have played their way into the hearts of Colts fans.

 

Gary Brackett, even in today’s media-frenzied age, probably could stump a panel if the game show, “What’s My Line,” were re-created.

 

Bennett Cerf identified Packer middle linebacker Ray Nitschke immediately when Nitschke tried the ploy on the show on the evening of Green Bay’s 1962 title win.  Mr. Cerf passed in 1971, so I like Gary’s chances even though he was a title winner, too.

 

Melvin Bullitt, Dominic Rhodes, Terrence Wilkins, Jacob Lacey, Aaron Bailey, Marcus Pollard, Jerrell Freeman and Bernard Whittington, among other undrafted free agents, all made footprints with the Colts.

 

Rhodes made a bunch of them, rushing for 1,104 yards in 2001, the most ever gained by an undrafted free agent.  He was the leading rusher in Super Bowl XLI.

 

Colts fans always will remember Bullitt’s fourth-down stop against New England in 2009 that set the table for a last-minute touchdown in one of the club’s most-ever dramatic wins.

 

Pollard was signed as a favor to a part-time scout who happened to like his athleticism.  Pollard forged a long career though he never had played football.

 

These players, along with the club’s seven draft picks, will participate in the team’s rookie camp on May 10-12.

 

They all had draft aspirations.  Those hoping to budge aspirations into reality will have a chance to start doing so in the next few working days. 

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