A MIND GAME

The Colts selected Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. Colts President Bill Polian said Painter has the intelligence to handle the Colts' offense and Painter said the mental aspect of the NFL is currently his top priority.

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Sixth-Round Draft Selection Painter Ready for Mental Challenge of Quarterbacking in NFL

INDIANAPOLIS – Curtis Painter knows well his next challenge.

Painter, a quarterback from Purdue University who the Colts made a sixth-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, said while the physical part of the NFL is obviously imant, there's another part that likely will be more critical to his next stage of development.

It involves learning NFL defenses.

And it involves learning the thick, complex Colts playbook.

Painter, one of college football's most productive quarterbacks during a four-year career at Purdue, said recently the process of learning pretty much everything about professional football is his top priority.

And so it is that that's his next challenge.

"I think more than anything right now, it's so much mental," Painter said during the Colts' recent 2009 rookie camp at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

"Obviously there's a lot of physical stuff as far as footwork and making the throws, but I think so much at this point is learning the offense and kind of soaking in as much as you can.

"That's not just what I'm focusing on, but I think that's really a big part of it right now."

Painter (6-feet-4, 230 pounds), the No. 201 overall selection of the sixth round, completed 987 of 1,648 passes for 11,163 yards and 67 touchdowns with 46 interceptions in four seasons at Purdue. He started 41 career games for the Boilermakers, completing 227 of 379 passes for 2,400 yards and 13 touchdowns with 11 interceptions as a senior.

But shortly after the Colts drafted him, the focus of Colts President Bill Polian and Head Coach Jim Caldwell wasn't on Painter's past, but his present and potential.

"He has all the skills and ability we're looking for," said Caldwell, who coached the team's quarterbacks from 2002-08.

"He's also got a great mind and he has the kind of attitude that we look for at that particular position."

With starting quarterback Peyton Manning, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, firmly established as the starter, Polian said the Colts typically don't look for quarterbacks early in the draft. The chance to select a prototype player at the position such as Painter so late in the draft was too good to pass, Polian said.

"It's rare we find a quarterback who has the stature and the arm strength and the intelligence to come in here and handle this offense out of the collegiate level," Polian said. "He clearly has."

One of Painter's most important tasks: learning a Colts playbook that is famous for its size and complexity. Painter said there are some similiarities in the Colts' offense to that he ran at Purdue.

"There are some things that are the same, but there are a lot of things that are different," he said. "Of course it's a lot more in-depth, naturally. It's quite a bit bigger so it's going take a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun, too."

Painter, who spent time this past summer at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana, referred to Manning as Mr. Manning at the Colts' recent rookie mini-camp.

"I think I have to, I think that's how it works," he said.

Still, Painter said, there's more to the respect he has for Manning than what he feels he is expected to do as a rookie on a team where Manning is the clear veteran.

"I watched him a lot," Painter said. "Just being in state, you hear a lot about him, and then of course he's one of the greatest, if not the greatest, so that right there is a good person to try to follow, to try to emulate. So just being here and being able to work behind him, just seeing some of the things that he does, it's a tremendous opportunity I think for a young quarterback to learn behind one of the greats.

"So, I'm just really fortunate."

Painter, who not only attended college in Indiana but grew up in Vincennes, Ind., said growing up in the state not only provided an opportunity to watch Manning, it means a lot of people nearby who will be watching his career particularly closely. And he said that's OK.

"I think to a certain extent, just having some family close and some friends close I think they're excited," he said. "It's definitely a good thing for them, should the season roll around and they get an opportunity to come see some games I guess.

"I don't really try to put any pressure on myself because of that. I think it makes me more excited than anything, just having some people around, having a support system that's close in my family and friends. I look at it as a bonus. I don't really try to put pressure on myself."

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