INDIANAPOLIS --- From a Division II university to regional combines to the second to last pick in the NFL Draft, Colts 7th round pick and the young man Chuck Pagano called a "dancing bear" earlier in the week took the road less traveled to his NFL debut against the Buccaneers. That journey made it even sweeter for Denzelle Good Sunday.
"Ah man, I can't even describe how I'm feeling right now. I want to cry. I want to laugh. I want to do everything," said Good on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, after a 25-12 win over Tampa Bay. "I'm just so excited, so blessed to be out here on this field. This has always been a dream of mine."
That dream was nothing more than a longshot in the spring. Good was recruited out of high school by NC State but did not play as a freshman in 2010. The following season he was out of football altogether after being academically ineligible, before deciding to play at Mars Hill University in North Carolina, a Division II school. As you'd expect, his draft prospects were slim playing at such a small program.
Good would participate though in an NFL regional combine in Baltimore then a super regional combine in Arizona during Pro Bowl week, far from the glitz and glam of top prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine held in Indianapolis each February.
Players at these smaller regional combines are lucky to get a training camp invitation as an undrafted player...let alone get drafted...let alone make the team...let alone start in an NFL game.
"I always had hopes. I was always going to do whatever I could to try to get here," said Good. "This has always been my ultimate goal. It started off as a dream, got into college, and it turned into a goal...To actually have played a decent game, I feel like, I'm just ecstatic right now."
Good did play a decent game, with a shuffled Colts offensive line. Watch the tape, and you'll see the sacks allowed to Tampa Bay were due in large part to good coverage. His holding penalty before halftime kept his 40-year-old quarterback from taking a brutal shot. Pro Football Focus gave Good a grade of 75.0 after his debut, solidly in the "Starter" range for the scouting site's 0-100 scale.
"Man, he's definitely a gamer. He's always quiet, doesn't really say much, but he played his tail off, definitely," said Colts starting center Jonotthan Harrison, who is also Good's hotel roommate before games. "We were just talking the night before the game. 'Just go out there and play, man. Don't even think about it. Mistakes are going to happen, but as long as you play fast, play confident, good things are going to happen.' That's exactly what he did. He played a hell of a game."
Good is a big man, standing at 6'5" and 340 pounds, half of the reason why Pagano called him a "dancing bear" earlier in the week. The other reason? His movement skills at that size. Pagano said in May after the Colts drafted him in the 7th round that Good is so athletic, he dunked a basketball twice, following Colts scouts putting him through a grueling pre-draft workout.
Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson has said in the past he wants to draft players who can someday be starters. A lot of credit has to go to Grigson and his staff for finding Good in a place many teams didn't even look to find key depth at one of the most important positions in professional football.
"(Colts Offensive Quality Control Coach) Frank Giufre did an outstanding job," Grigson said after the NFL Draft, in regards to Good. "He went out there (to Mars Hill) ...His movement skills, he has all the size. He actually has a 30 Wonderlic score, which is very impressive. That's Stanford-type stuff. There's a lot there to work with. That's a pretty nice lump of clay for our coaches work with."
That lump of clay has now molded into a young tackle the Colts can rely on to start and provide important depth when Castonzo returns from injury.
"I had no earthly clue, to be completely honest," said Harrison, when asked if he knew where Mars Hill University was when he met his hotel roommate. "I guess they're breeding some good lineman."
Taking the road less travelled makes finally reaching the destination even more memorable. Just ask Denzelle Good.