INDIANAPOLIS – When any working professional is young to the business world, sage advice he or she hears can resonate a long time, if not forever.
Ryan Grigson now is in his 16th year in NFL personnel evaluation and words from an early boss in St. Louis, Charlie Armey, still ring clearly.
"I remember him saying years ago, 'Scout the player, not the school.' I've really adhered to that in a big way," said Grigson, who in three years as Colts GM has landed prospects from other professional leagues, minor leagues and from leagues that have nothing to do with football.
While Erik Swoope got a lot attention this past weekend as a camp rookie fresh from collegiate basketball, there was a 220-pound presence at strong safety that could have an impact of his own – Dewey McDonald.
"(He's a) big, athletic-type safety. Got good range, got good ball skills (and) did some good things," said Chuck Pagano after McDonald concluded the three-day, five-practice rookie camp on Sunday.
Pagano likes heads-up play in the secondary, and he has a number of performers like Delano Howell, Corey Lynch and Sergio Brown competing for the strong safety position that opened when the club did not retain Antoine Bethea.
Grigson also seeks players who are heady enough to make an impact in camp because they might have "off-the-charts" acumen.
They may have found a prospect in McDonald, who started his career at Fairmont State before concluding at California-Pennsylvania.
"I have four degrees. I have bachelor's (degrees) in business management, sports management and marketing, and I have my master's in business administration," said McDonald. "I took a lot of summer hours. The first summer, I took nine hours, then 12, then I had 15 and one summer I took 18. Last semester I took nine again. That's how I was able to get all the degrees."
McDonald started 11 games last year, totaling a team-high 89 tackles, six tackles for losses and three interceptions. McDonald returned each of the interceptions for scores, and the three such tallies in a season were the first by a conference player in more than a decade.
Grigson has a never-ending search for contributors. This past year, he visited Concordia and noted the business cards left by others like him who are not afraid to scour the smaller schools off the beaten path.
He is looking for "those guys (with) a skill set, the competitive fiber, the football intelligence to have a chance to start.
"There's all different types, whether it be a guy that has an adequate skill set but has off-the-charts football acumen and recall of the scheme. Those types of guys can make a splash in camp just for doing things the right way, being where they're supposed to be – in the right spot to make a play."
McDonald played 33 games at Fairmont State from 2009-11, notching 178 tackles (11 for losses) and nine interceptions (for a school-record 319 return yards).
The football staff was released in 2011, prompting him to join former coach Mike Lopez at Cal-Pennsylvania and to heighten the chances of personnel types to find him.
"I transferred to increase my stock to get to the next level. I thought it was a stronger conference," said McDonald. "They had a tradition of guys getting to the NFL. With me coming after Rontez Miles, who's with the Jets, I knew there was a strong tradition."
McDonald competed well among rookies last weekend. He still is here in the off-season conditioning program and will join the full squad next week when OTAs mean offense-versus-defense drills.
McDonald says "leadership, play-making abilities, ball skills and tackling" are strengths and that the Colts were one of seven teams working him out before the draft.
"I had a great visit. I loved the staff," said McDonald. "I had four or five teams want to sign me as a free agent. I was leaning toward the Colts. This was the best fit."
He credits his parents (Debra and Stevie) for instilling ethic, and he is the first person in the family with a college degree. Make that four degrees.
Four degrees, 44 career college games?
"I just took complete advantage of the opportunity I had to get a free education," said McDonald. "That's the way I was looking at it."