INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts only went about an hour or so northeast for their fifth-round pick when they selected Ball State offensive lineman Danny Pinter.
The South Bend, Ind., native arrived in Muncie as a tight end, and he stuck there for his first couple of years before roster needs transformed him into the Cardinals' starting right tackle for the last two seasons.
The move paid off for Pinter and Ball State; by his senior season, he was a First-Team All-MAC selection.
While Pinter hasn't had the flash and limelight of an early-round player, he holds that luster in the Colts' eyes.
"I love Danny, I'm not going to lie to y'all. Actually, we were trying move up to get him. I probably won't ever give y'all this much insight, but for like 30 minutes we were trying to move up and just couldn't get up to get him," Colts general manager Chris Ballard told reporters after the draft on Saturday. "(The) first exposure for me was at the NFLPA game. That's where I got sick and then coming back he has an unbelievable workout at the combine. Then we continued to study him."
His unique journey to the NFL, while being fortunate enough to stay in his home state, was a big topic of conversation when Pinter was introduced to the Indianapolis media on Saturday after his selection. You can listen to that session in its entirety above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Back home again, in Indiana: He's working his way south through the state, but coming from South Bend, to Muncie for college and now to Indianapolis for work, Pinter is thrilled to be staying close to home.
"Man, so much. I really can't even put it into words to be honest," he responded when asked what it means to be taken by his hometown team. "I mean, this state means a lot to me. I've lived here my whole life, I have played football here my whole life. So to have the opportunity to stay here and stay around a bunch of people who helped me get to his point is – really, I can't put it into words. I mean I am so excited.
"(Being) from Indiana, it is Colts country. So I saw plenty of games growing up," Pinter continued. "I know how great of a fanbase it is. I've been to games, I've been to Lucas Oil (Stadium) so it is definitely a culture that I am really excited to be a part of."
» The Colts have stayed in touch with Pinter throughout the draft process : Pinter is yet another 2020 draft pick that said he's been in the thick of it with the Colts throughout the pre-draft process.
"Heading into it, we kind of knew it was a toss-up. That is just kind of the way it works. I've been told like three-to-five. That's not something I was too caught up on," Pinter said when asked where he expected to be drafted. "I just wanted the opportunity. In terms of talking to them, I talked to the Colts at the NFLPA game, at the Combine and then didn't actually have any over-the-phone interviews after the Combine, but stayed in touch with some scouts – that sort of thing."
The Colts know they're getting a versatile guy and a quick learner in Pinter, so they've communicated what they'd like to see from him.
"Yeah, that's kind of been something I have really been working on because throughout this process was kind of recognized to me that that was probably the reality. I've been open about how willing I am to play wherever a team needs me. So I have really been trying to work on my versatility – working as a center, working as a guard and then working as a tackle if I need to go do that," Pinter said. "So I am more than willing to do whatever they need me to do."
» Pinter is excited to join an offensive line with such a physical reputation: Offensive linemen across the country are all familiar with the work of the Colts' offensive line, led by two-time First-Team All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson. For draft hopefuls, joining this unit is quite an opportunity.
"I view it as a plus. There are great players there and I think everyone knows that. So I'm just coming in ready to learn as much as I can," Pinter said. "I mean obviously I am a competitive person so I am going to go out there and compete as much as I can, but at the same time there is a lot to learn from those guys with a lot of experience. So that is what I am really looking forward to – is just becoming a better player through them."
Earning the Ball State Dave McLain Leadership Award in 2019, Pinter certainly appears to be living up to that in his approach to becoming better as soon as he joins his teammates in Indianapolis.
Pinter will have a role model as well as a colleague to look up to on the Colts' line in Nelson, and he's looking forward to getting started working with him.
"Yeah, I mean, he is the best in the business. I mean, I think that is known across the league. He is the best in the game at the position so to have the chance to learn from him is something that I'm really looking forward to," Pinter said specifically about Nelson. "He is the best in the game at the position without a doubt. That's well established. I love watching him – I mean before obviously playing for the Colts now. So I am really excited to learn from him."
» He made a smooth transition from tight end to offensive tackle: Tight ends are obviously expected to block as part of their duties, but not all of them do it well enough to where they are asked to move to offensive tackle and block full-time.
However, after awarding Pinter with the Ball State Ray Louthen Award in 2017, which is given to the most improved player, perhaps his coaches knew then that they'd be able to mold Pinter into someone they'd be able to play wherever they needed him the most.
"It was a mix of things. I was a bigger tight end, but at the same time the team needed a tackle so my coach just approached me at the time and asked if that was a move I was willing to make for the team and it was something I embraced right from the first time they asked me," Pinter said.
That move, Pinter realized, was also probably in his best interests if he wanted to pursue a possible professional career.
"It's certainly it's been my goal no matter where that was going to be, but I think it is the most natural fit for me," Pinter said. "I mean I love offensive line, it fits me well and it definitely helped me get to his point."
While he's a fresh move to the offensive line — he only played right tackle on the line at Ball State — many envision him playing on the inside at guard, or even at center, in the NFL. It's something for which Pinter had already began preparing.
"So it was a mix," Pinter said of the reps he took, inside and out. "So not in games or practices much or anything like that, but I was staying after practice since this summer because I knew this was a possible switch and then just be willing to do it if the team needed it or someone got hurt. Then also at the NFLPA game I played at, I played guard there the whole week. It's something I definitely feel comfortable with."
Get your first look at Danny Pinter after being selected 149th overall by the Indianapolis Colts.