INDIANAPOLIS – Under Ryan Grigson, the Colts have searched nationally and internationally for talent to build a program that has won 23-of-34 games in two seasons.
The search continued Wednesday as 20 NFL draft-eligible players with local prep or collegiate careers went through a 75-minute workout conducted by the Colts' coaches and personnel staff.
"Most of the players here we've been tracking for most of the past year," said National Scout Matt Terpening. "Our scouts have evaluated them. We saw them during their Pro Days in March, and this gives us chance to have them in our facility and in front of our general manager, head coach and assistant coaches to watch them again. It's good for us and them."
Grigson started here in 2012 what has been done in other markets by having local draft-eligible players work in advance of the draft.
Wednesday's session had players from 10 different local high schools, plus University of Indianapolis quarterback Chris Mills, who prepped in Lafayette.
Offensive players participating in addition to Mills were RB-Shakir Bell, Indiana State; OL-Andrew Cureton, Cincinnati; TE-Zane Fakes, Ball State; FB-Kurt Freytag, Purdue; OG-Aaron Green, Alabama-Birmingham; OT-Ed Hazelett, Western Kentucky; WR-Kofi Hughes, Indiana; OT-James Hurst, North Carolina; WR-Anthony McClung, Cincinnati; OG-Alex Pierce, Eastern Illinois; RB-Nick Turner, Indiana.
Defensive players working were S-Vince Coach, Adams State; CB-Jeffrey Garrett, Ball State; S-Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State; LB-James Manuel, Minnesota; LB-Blake Riley, Central State; DE-Shawn Shupperd, Eastern Kentucky; LB-Jeremy Stephens, Butler; DT-Jordan Stepp, Cincinnati.
Players received instruction in the club's indoor facility, where banners hang on the south wall honoring division or conference championships, plus one world title.
"If you ask any of the kids who grew up in the area, they're all big-time Colts fans," said Terpening. "For them to come into our facility and see how we do things, they're really excited."
Some, like Bell and Hughes, had practiced in the venue before, while Hurst was seeing the facility for the first time.
"It's so cool to be here and see the things the guys have worked so hard for, all the great players who have come through here," said Hurst. "To be able to do a workout in front of their (personnel) staff, the head coach, the O-line coach and being a part of this was awesome.
"Growing up a Colts fans, meeting the staff was cool. Regardless of what organization you end up with, it's a chance to learn and try to grow in your ability."
Hughes knew the site, but working with NFL coaches was a new twist.
"It was different. I didn't know what to expect," said Hughes. "I've never met with an NFL position coach ever. It felt just like meeting with my college coaches, laid back and very informative. I didn't have any expectations going in. I enjoyed the whole experience."
Hughes has trained to take the next step and like others, attended with a plan.
"Catch every ball, run great routes, keeping my eyes up on every route," said Hughes. "That's something I've been focusing on – training my eyes. I was learning from Brandon Marshall for the past 10-to-12 weeks. That was something he preached. As a receiver, you have to keep your eyes open. That's what I focused on."
Bell, a 5-8, 185-pound package, had worked here before and found the Lucas Oil Stadium endzone while at Warren Central.
The prep and collegiate star echoed others chasing NFL dreams, and he does not worry about size.
"Not at all. There's guys – Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren Sproles – who made an impact in the league. I feel like I'm the next guy to make that step," said Bell. "My size is something that's kind of blinding to a lot of people. They don't think I can pass block or can catch. They look at me and think there's a lot of speed. With that, there's a lot of talent and a whole lot of heart.
"I wanted to show my hands. I wanted to do wide receiver and running back routes. I feel I proved I can come out of the backfield, play slot receiver, play special teams – anything where I can show up on the field."
Players noted the presence of Grigson, Pagano, coaches and personnel officials was much more personal here than at their schools' pro days. Colts officials viewed this as a serious look-see.
"You take every chance you get to get a look at prospects," said Terpening. "Everyone gets excited because there are guys who pop up.
"It happens all the time. That's why we look under every rock. You never know what you will find out there."
Terpening says players today are savvy about the Colts and how some of the team's players came on board.
"Nowadays, kids know a lot about the players and the teams. These kids know who our players are. They know which ones like Jerrell Freeman, Griff Whalen, Jack Doyle and Josh McNary who were undrafted but made it.
"They see players don't have to be a top prospect. They can make it because they are smart, tough, do the little things and have the ability to play at our level."
Club officials watched how players interacted and learned and if they possessed traits beyond talent that match organizational musts.
Players took advantage of the additional chance to display wares that can lead beyond college.
"It's nerve-wracking, it's tough. There's not a whole lot you can do," said Hurst. "Most of the stuff they're going to grade you on is the film you made in college. To just have the opportunity like this and workout with the coach and show him you can learn and want to be a part of the organization, you get excited any time you get a chance like that."