INDIANAPOLIS --- Colts nose tackle Zach Kerr helped keep the franchise's league-leading streak alive last season, with at least one undrafted free agent making the final roster for the 16th straight season, and during his first offseason as a professional football player, Kerr turned to a book written by former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy for inspiration and drive to become even better in 2015.
The book is titled Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance, the perfect theme for a former undrafted free agent trying to make a name for himself in the NFL.
It starts with the story of two boys from very different backgrounds who both end up in jail, one for DUI and the other for armed robbery. Dungy uses their stories to warn others against the danger of having a lack of character.
Take the fact that Kerr read this book, along with one by Michael Vick, and combine it with his own story of being homeless at times growing up after his father was murdered when Kerr was only a baby, and you realize very quickly Zach Kerr is a young man that will draw on whatever resources he has to become successful.
"I just tried to change up my lifestyle a little bit, because I read a few things over the offseason," said Kerr. "I got a few things from them about rest and eating right and treating your body right. You know, doing things for your body that's going to allow you to play longer, that longevity you need to play this game.
Kerr emphasized a change in his eating habits was essential to maintain peak physical condition for the nose tackle that was listed at 6'2" and 335 pounds last year. With his body feeling better than ever, his work ethic has only grown larger during his first offseason in the NFL.
"How hard I workout, how long, how much I focus on what I'm doing," Kerr said. "Not too many lifestyle changes, because I had already made those, but I just had to do something different, something that kind of shocked my body a little bit."
Head Coach Chuck Pagano said Kerr made himself necessary in training camp and the 2014 preseason, and with the departures of Cory Redding and Ricky Jean Francois along the defensive line, he may be even more necessary now.
"As far as football goes, they told me to stay in shape, try to get as many clips of myself as I could, and just go over them - good reps, bad reps, decent reps, things like that," Kerr told Colts.com last week about what his coaches advised him to do this offseason to get better. "That was one of the main things. They just said I have to come in with a whole different focus, and I know that about myself. I have to be ready to go. That was one of the main things that (Chuck) Pagano had talked to me about."
Defensive Line Coach Gary Emanuel only reinforced Pagano's message to Kerr, after a rookie season where he played in 12 games with 3 sacks and a forced fumble.
"He said I have to use what I did last year as a stepping stone," said Kerr of Emanuel's advice. "I shook the cobwebs off and got that first experience of NFL football. Now, it's time to ramp it up, because everyone is expecting a lot more than what you did your rookie year."
Expecting a lot more, in part, because two players from the defensive line rotation in 2014 are now in Arizona and Washington.
"It's definitely an opportunity. It's sad to see great guys go. Ricky, he helped me out tremendously my rookie year. He taught me a lot of different things about life, about football," said Kerr. "But that's the name of the game. That's the business. It's an opportunity. Next man up...you have to take (opportunities) as they come. You have to make the most of them."
Kerr's opportunity was enormous in 2014 to get his foot in an NFL locker room. What will 2015 hold? Kerr fully understands that's entirely up to him.