INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts finally got the chance to turn Curt Maggitt loose in their preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.
And the rookie outside linebacker showed flashes of what could have been had he not missed almost his entire senior season last year at the University of Tennessee.
Maggitt finished tied for second on the team with four total tackles — three of them for a loss — in the Colts' 19-18 victory over the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
In what was his first-ever professional game, Maggitt said he experienced a wave of emotions.
"It was excitement, you know?" Maggitt said this week. "Anxious, excited. I'm really grateful for the opportunity (with) what I've been through the past nine months, and I really just give a lot of thanks to God and just played my best."
Maggitt turned in an impressive junior season for the Volunteers in 2014 with 11 sacks, setting himself up to be a sure-fire draft pick after his senior year. In the process, he was one of just three players in the SEC that year to collect 11 sacks, joining Missouri's Shane Ray, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a 2015 first-round pick of the Denver Broncos, and Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, then a freshman who will assuredly be an early-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
But Maggitt would play in just two games in 2015 before a hip injury ended his senior season. He would go undrafted in April, and the Colts were more than happy when he signed with them as a college free agent.
"We're excited based on the tape we have on that kid," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said of Maggitt at the time of his signing.
But Maggitt faced a clear uphill battle once he signed in Indianapolis, spending most of his time rehabbing — and away from the practice field during rookie minicamp and OTAs.
When the Colts arrived at Anderson University for the beginning of training camp in late July, Maggitt was able to get onto the field for really the first time in his Colts practice jersey. He said he's leaned on the other defensive veterans to help get him caught up and acclimated to the league.
Maggitt says safety Mike Adams, as well as fellow outside linebackers Robert Mathis, Trent Cole and Erik Walden — who between the four of them have 48 total years of NFL experience — have been especially helpful throughout his development.
Highlights from the Colts preseason win over the Bills.
"Those guys, anytime I have a question — you know, Coach Brad (White) — we have a fantastic room with leadership, mentors," Maggitt said. "The way the guys are professional the lifestyle they live, it's a great example for me and the other rookies in the room."
The best piece of advice Maggitt has received? It's the need to play "under control." He's practically seen what NFL game speed can be like by playing in the SEC, but Maggitt learned in the NFL, "It's not always about going crazy-fast sometimes."
He displayed those traits in the Colts' preseason opener against the Bills. Maggitt played 29 total snaps on defense and three on special teams, and was a constant presence in the Buffalo offensive backfield, stopping quarterback Cardale Jones for a short loss, combining with defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin for tackle resulting in a loss of six yards on an interior run play and taking down running back Dan Herron off the right tackle for a loss of two yards.
It was a satisfying moment for Maggitt, who finally was able to be unleashed on the football field again.
He'll hope to keep improving Saturday, when the Baltimore Ravens come to Lucas Oil Stadium for Week 2 of the preseason.
"I can see the Colts fans — they're passionate. Very, very passionate," Maggitt said. "So I'm excited to … have a home game."