WESTFIELD, Ind. — Daurice Fountain's challenge from the Indianapolis Colts' coaching staff the past year has been to string together multiple days of making plays at the wide receiver position.
At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Fountain has the frame and the tools to get yards in large chunks in the Colts' offense, but making a play in practice here or there every so often wasn't going to cut it.
So on July 31, Fountain put together a strong performance in the Colts' sixth day of training camp practices at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., hauling in a handful of passes and staying in-bounds along the sideline, while also snatching a ball that was initially tipped by a defender.
The next day, Fountain ended the team's practice with an impressive walkoff touchdown grab to wrap up a two-minute drill, as the second-year receiver out of Northern Iowa approached the end zone, turned his head towards quarterback Phillip Walker, batted away cornerback Jalen Collins' hands and leapt in the air, snagging the ball at its highest point and keeping both feet in bounds as he fell to the ground for the score.
And Fountain has showed no signs of slowing since.
That includes five-catch, 63-yard performance in Thursday's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.
Whatever has clicked in Fountain, it's happening at the right time, as he finds himself smack dab in the middle of a heated roster battle at wide receiver.
"Really what I'm really impressed with Reece is that he's starting to show more consistency," Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. "He's got that body that you want from a receiver. He's big, strong and physical. Now he's starting to get a little quicker."
That Fountain is quicker is the result of loads of hard work over the offseason, both in his skillset as a receiver and by reshaping his body, which he said is "paying off really well."
"I feel a lot lighter, I feel a lot smoother running out here nowadays," Fountain said. "Yeah, man, it's really paying off."
"I've just got to keep going," he continued. "There's just a lot of little things I can keep working on to become the receiver I wanna be. Right now it's just a pretty good start."
Fountain knows the challenges that lie ahead if he wants to make the Colts' Week 1 roster. Last year, as a rookie, the fifth-round pick caught a combined four passes for 46 yards in three preseason games before spending most of the regular season on the practice squad.
He got the call up to the active roster the final four weeks of the regular season, and also played in the Colts' two postseason matchups, but did not log a reception.
Fountain said he was hard on himself as he got a chance to take a step back and really evaluate his rookie season.
"I'm a big competitor," he said. "So, yeah, I just knew there's room to get better."
Now there's a logjam for the final two or three spots at the wide receiver position for the Colts heading into 2019, and no one — including Fountain, Deon Cain, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Krishawn Hogan and others — seems willing to concede their opportunities in practices and in preseason games.
For his part, Fountain says he's enjoying the chance to compete and continue to show that he can be that consistent player the coaching staff needs.
"Man, it's really intense. We've got a lot of great players all over, man," he said. "So you've just got to keep your head down and just control what you can control. Obviously out there we're just going to compete against each other and just make each other better as best as we can."
Fountain's next opportunity to take another step forward is Wednesday, when the Cleveland Browns come to Westfield for two days of joint training camp practices ahead of Saturday's preseason Week 2 contest against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With standouts like Denzel Ward and 2019 second-round pick Greedy Williams at the cornerback position, the Browns should present quite the challenge for Fountain and his fellow receivers.
Bring it on, he says.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Fountain said. "They're a good team; I just want to just go out there and just compete.
"That's everything," he continued. "I mean, at the end of the day, that's what it just comes down to is just compete and show the people that I'm here to play."