ANDERSON – Ben Ijalana was a four-year starter at Villanova, never missing a game at left tackle in 53 opportunities.
So distinguished was his career that Ijalana was one of four Villanova players ever to earn All-America honors in multiple seasons.
A career that went by form has been anything but that after joining the Colts.
Taken 49th overall in 2011, labor unrest meant no work heading into training camp. In week four, he was shifted to left tackle when Anthony Castonzo was hurt.
A few snaps in, Ijalana suffered a knee injury that ended his season and triggered months of rehab.
Ijalana emerged from the emotional depths of the injury only to suffer a recurrence in a camp-opening, non-contact drill last year. Another mountain was set before him.
Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium will involve great emotions for Ijalana when he returns to the field as the Colts host Buffalo at 1:30 p.m.
"It's going to be awesome," said Ijalana. "I watched all the games from the press box last year. I was on the team, but didn't feel a part of the team.
"Just stepping on the turf this season will be exciting. I remember when we had our (June mini-camp) practice at the stadium, I was like, 'Wow.' I just got a sense (of the surroundings). It's going to be a good feeling."
Ijalana refused to throw a pity party for himself while recuperating away from the team the first time he was injured. Being thrust into the same situation two straight years means his off-seasons have been anything but recreational.
Unlike most teammates, his time away from the training room was measured in hours and days (maybe 10 total), not weeks.
"It's been so many (hours) that you would think I've lived at the facility. I've lived on 56th Street," said Ijalana. "I always love to see people when they come back, 'Hey, man, how was vacation?' Some of us never left."
Chuck Pagano has seen countless cases of players like Ijalana or Josh Chapman (who missed last season with a knee injury) who have the fighting attitude to return.
"Just resilient and work ethic and all those type of things," said Pagano of the traits needed to do so. "A guy like Ben has been through a lot in his short time here. A lot of guys might have hung up their cleats by now.
"They get frustrated and all those type of things, but they take it, they stick to the process one day at a time, continue with the rehab and they know if they just keep swinging the ax, the tree will eventually fall. That's what they have to do and that's what they've done. It's a credit to them."
Ijalana did not resist the medical protocol laid out by the medical staff after his second injury. He trusted and treated the matter as if it were the first time instead of the second. It was a way to stay upbeat.
Ijalana says the opening weeks of camp have been a "blast." He appreciates things some others could overlook.
"Just being able to practice, suit up, pad up," said Ijalana. "Even something as simple as a walk-through (means something). This time last year, I wasn't able to walk around this time. It's all a blessing because I have a job to come to."
Ijalana says he learned from mental reps from being allowed to be around last year. He praises Pagano for handling his situation a great way.
"It absolutely starts with Chuck," said Ijalana. "He's a player's coach, just a real good guy. The values he instills in his team – family, family, you're your brother's keeper, if someone messes with your brother you protect him. Things like that."
Running as a backup to Castonzo, Ijalana should get playing time Sunday. He has taken the step that resulted in the injuries many times now in camp. Now, it is time for action.
There have been no pity moments for a player whose father would not allow excuses while growing up. The recovery is all about looking ahead.
If Ijalana does permit a flashback, it will be to the moments he has played as a Colt rather than the weeks he has spent recovering from injuries suffered in a tough sport.
"We exorcised those demons in the last rehab," said Ijalana. "It was a non-contact injury. If you can imagine my first pass drill was a little shaky, but we're in the hundreds, if not thousands now, of that step.
"As long as there's an opportunity, life's still good."
Luck hit 11-of-11 passes with two touchdowns. He completed five passes to T.Y. Hilton, one for a score. Luck is 219-of-318 for 21 TDs in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills in during camp.
A good part of the early part of practice was spent on running drills.
In red zone work, Luck hit Fleener on a scoring toss.
The practice lasted 20 minutes less than the two hours, five minutes set for the session.
NEWS OF THE DAY
TE-Dwayne Allen (foot), S-LaRon Landry (knee), S-Joe Lefeged (calf), G-Hugh Thornton (ankle), C/G-Khaled Holmes (ankle), S-Sergio Brown (hamstring), LB-Mario Harvey (hamstring), LB-Daniel Adongo (biceps), S-Larry Asante (shoulder, AC joint), LB-Jerrell Freeman (shoulder), CB-Teddy Williams (quadriceps), LB-Josh McNary (hamstring), LB-Bjoern Werner (foot) and FB-Dan Moore (shoulder) missed action.
Allen was having a second opinion on his knee, and further details of the foot injury are not known. Werner left the walk-through this morning and still could play on Sunday.
Pagano ruled out Allen, Thornton, Holmes and Freeman.
PAGANO SAYS(On liking the bar set high for expectations)
"Absolutely. The expectations are going to be there every year. Nobody really gave us a chance and expected us to do what we did last year, but that was last year. If we sit there and pat ourselves on the back, read the press clippings, then we're going to be right back where we were a couple years ago. The expectations are high, but you want to be in that conversation. That's why we do what we do. That's why these guys sacrifice, train and put all that hard work in. We hold each other to a high standard. We know what the expectations are. We got a bullseye on our chest now and that's exactly where we want to be."
FEATURED QUOTE (T.Y. Hilton on how he will handle expectations after having a good rookie season)
"I'm looking forward to it, without a doubt. I know what I did last year and I'm trying to improve that this year."
YESTERDAY'S TRIVIA QUIZ
Two former Colts assistant coaches had four or more interceptions against the Colts as an opposing quarterback. Who are they and how many did they throw? ANSWER: Zeke Bratkowski uncorked seven interceptions against the Colts while with Chicago on October 2, 1960. Frank Reich tossed four against the Colts on November 17, 1996 while with the New York Jets.
TODAY'S TRIVIA QUIZ
The Colts' all-time single-game completion percentage leader (minimum 15 attempts) and the player to hold that mark against the Colts also met as opposing signal-callers to decide a world championship. Who are they? See the next Colts Camp Notebook for the answer.
TODAY'S ATTENDANCE: 2,176. TOTAL FOR CAMP: 34,033.
The weather during Friday's morning work was cloudy and 67 degrees. The temperature for the afternoon practice reached 80 degrees.
There is nothing scheduled for Saturday, and the Colts host Buffalo on Sunday. The next practice for public viewing is Tuesday from 3:20 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.