INDIANAPOLIS – The moment his name was announced with the 18th overall pick back in April, Ryan Kelly was penciled into an NFL starting lineup with more assurance than any other rookie.
The Colts needed Kelly from Day One probably more than any other rookie/team pair in the NFL.
In return, the Colts have gotten out of Kelly exactly what they desired---a sound, consistent, durable presence snapping the ball to Andrew Luck.
"He does a heck of a job," Andrew Luck says of the man who has firmed up a center position that did not have such continuity in years past.
"I think he's gotten better every week. Our lockers are next to each other. I certainly enjoy his company. He's a heck of a dude."
While Kelly has allowed some pressures, he has yet to give up a sack in 502 snaps. The 502 snaps are the most for any NFL rookie this season.
All offseason long the Colts talked about how comfortable they felt with Kelly.
That's translated with the live bullets starting to fly.
A behind the scenes look at the Colts game day against the Titans.
"Obviously in the evaluation process we saw his body of work down at Alabama and knew that he had a chance to be a really good football," Pagano says of Kelly. "When you get to know the player you get to know the guy. From the first day he stepped on campus, it hasn't been too big for him. It was a seamless transition for him.
"It seems like he's been here a lot longer than he has. His game isn't perfect; he'd be the first one to tell you that. He's making some mistakes like everyone else, but the sirens aren't going off at that position which is a good thing."
When you take a look at the future of the Colts' offensive line, Kelly is obviously a cornerstone in that building.
A healthy offensive line in 2016 includes four starters 25 years or younger.
It's Kelly in the middle of that unit providing what the Colts greatly needed back in April.
"He will do some things that a rookie does sometimes – snap a ball early, make a mental mistake, go the wrong way, things that happen to rookies," offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski says of Kelly. "But he has generally, overall, done as well as I could have imagined.
"Coming into a position that is very difficult to play as a rookie in this league and in a system where a lot is demanded out of him with a quarterback that is always pushing the envelope in terms of those things as well. I can't say that enough, what a great job he has done. There are a lot of things that you want to clean up as a coach but if you look at the big picture, I think he has come in and done everything that we would ask him to do."