INDIANAPOLIS –With the Andrew Luck selection nearly 24 hours old, the Colts equipped their new first overall pick with a familiar weapon – his college tight end.
Indianapolis used its second pick of the 2012 NFL Draft on Stanford tight end Coby Fleener, who many observers consider to be the most impressive player to man that position in school history.
"I couldn't be better. I knew it was a possibility (to come to Indianapolis), but you never really know," said Fleener. "I sat there yesterday thinking there were some teams that could have picked me and I wasn't sure. Today when the Colts came up, I still wasn't sure until I got the call on my phone that had an Indiana area code. I had a big smile on my face at that point."
Fleener recorded 96 receptions for 1,543 yards in his four years with the Cardinal. He hauled in 18 career touchdowns, ranking him first all-time among Stanford tight ends. The mark also tied Tony Hill (1973-76) and Vincent White (1979-82) for fifth on the school's all-time career list. Seventeen of his 18 career touchdown receptions came in his final two seasons.
Fleener was a component that helped Stanford win 31 of its last 38 games. Prior to that resurgence, Stanford had seven consecutive losing seasons. The Cardinal played in two straight BCS bowl games (2010 and 2011), a first for the program in years. Stanford posted three consecutive seasonal scoring records (461, 2009; 524, 2010; 561, 2011) and earned records of 8-5, 12-1 and 11-2 over the last three years.
This past season, Fleener had 34 receptions for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns, with his 19.6 average being the best seasonal mark of his career. He gained All-America honors from The Sporting News to become the first Stanford tight end since 1959 to earn such notice. Fleener started 16 of 51 career outings, never playing in fewer than 12 games in a season, and he opened 12 of 26 games over the last two seasons.
The last time the Colts selected a tight end in the first two rounds of the draft was when Dallas Clark was tabbed with the 24th overall choice in 2003. Clark went on to record franchise records as a tight end with 427 receptions and 46 touchdowns en route to 4,887 reception yards in his nine-year career with Indianapolis.
Fleener excelled in high school at Joliet Catholic Academy in Lemont, Ill., the alma mater of former Purdue standout fullback Mike Alstott, who went on to a noteworthy NFL career, and Notre Damer Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger. Fleener's mother, Michelle, chose his name after former Redskins offensive tackle Joe Jacoby. Fleener will be joining a Colts roster that is minus the presence of Clark and Jacob Tamme, veteran players who were with the club in previous seasons. Brody Eldridge is the most experienced returning veteran for Indianapolis.
The 6-6, 247-pound Illinois native has 10-inch hands and runs a sub-4.5 40-yard dash. He is touted for his explosiveness, route-running abilities and reliable hands. He was a hybrid tight end who averaged 16.0 yards per catch for his Stanford career. Luck cited his teammate for his development.
"Obviously his speed and his jumping ability (are good), but watching him improve as a blocker in college was special, especially his dedication in the weight room and the film room," Luck said early this week. "I know when I came in as a freshman he definitely wasn't the guy you wanted in there blocking, which is no knock to him. But he's worked on it and (last season) he was in there on the short-yardage, goal-line stuff. He was that guy."
The Colts hope Fleener will provide support in the rushing and passing attack. Indianapolis labored with a rushing attack that averaged 99.6 yards per game in 2011. Fleener targets blocking as one aspect of his game that he hopes to refine.
"It developed each year, I got better each year, and I think with time and weight room strength, each year would increase and get better," said Fleener. "I look forward to improving that aspect of my game as with any other aspect of my game."
Fleener followed Clark's career among others as he played at Stanford. He studied the game and finds this a good time for tight end play in the league.
"There's a variety of tight ends, Dallas included, that I've watched and liked to pick up different pointers as far as their pros and cons of how they play the game that I can use in mine," said Fleener. "It's an exciting time to be a tight end. … I want to be a four-down tight end. I pride myself on versatility, speed and having solid hands."
Fleener also brought depth to the Stanford special teams unit. He had three solo tackles and two blocked kicks during his collegiate career.
Craig Kelley contributed to this story.