INDIANAPOLIS — Back in May of 2013, Delanie Walker saw the addition of a young, quiet player to the tight ends room for the Tennessee Titans.
After going undrafted after a productive career at Western Kentucky, Jack Doyle was just looking for an opportunity — any opportunity — to work hard and show an NFL coaching staff that he belongs.
Walker, then in his first year with the Titans after spending the first seven years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, appreciated that approach from the youngster, and took him under his wing.
Though the Titans would waive Doyle during final cuts before the 2013 season began, his NFL career, it turned out, was just getting started. The Indianapolis Colts, the Titans' AFC South Division rivals, were right there to pick Doyle up the next day, and the rest, as they say, has been history.
In the five seasons since, Doyle has continued to work his way up the Colts' depth chart, and, heading into the 2017 season, he had earned the starting job — and a reported three-year contract extension.
He responded with the best season of his career: 80 receptions, 690 yards and four touchdowns. And, in recent days, Doyle's NFL journey came full circle, as he earned a trip to his first-ever Pro Bowl, where he would spend the week with none other than his former teammate, Walker.
"I'm happy for him," Walker told Colts.com's Caroline Cann of Doyle in Orlando. " When he first came in, I thought he was a hell of a player, and seeing what he's doing with the Colts, it's great. I knew that he was going to be that guy; he just needed an opportunity, and now he has it."
Walker has been the cream of the crop when it comes to AFC South tight ends, as he has been selected to three straight Pro Bowls and in 2017 led the Titans in receptions (74) and receiving yards (807), and added three touchdowns.
Now he has competition from his former teammate Doyle, who finished second among all NFL tight ends in 2017 with his 80 receptions, which were the second most by a tight end in a single season in Colts history, trailing only Dallas Clark's 100-catch season back in 2009.
Walker said Doyle's production is no secret when you factor in the trust he's able to build with his quarterbacks and playcallers.
"Very quiet guy. Very, very quiet," Walker said. "But (he) knows the game, plays it well, and like they say, he's reliable. He's the guy that if you throw the ball in the air, he's going to go get it. … Again, he's just reliable and he knows what he's doing when he's out there."
And while lots of tight ends in today's game can go out and catch a few passes here and there, Walker said what has set Doyle apart is his improvement as a blocker.
"I would say he's always been a great route runner; I would say his blocking has improved a whole lot," Walker said. "And that's what gets you far in this league — if you can run routes you're great, but if you can block, you can stay on the field every down, and that's what he improved in since the last time I've seen him."
Doyle, who finished his first Pro Bowl with two receptions for 17 yards, said he continued to soak in every opportunity he had with Walker last week leading up to Sunday's game, in which the Titans tight end would claim Offensive Most Valuable Player honors after finishing with four catches for 29 yards and two touchdowns, including the eventual game-winning score in the AFC's 24-23 comeback victory over the NFC.
"Yeah, it's been a lot of fun," Doyle said of Walker. "Obviously when I came in to Tennessee, Delanie was the guy there and he taught me a lot then, and still I'm trying to pick his brain and pick up things, because he's such a heck of a player, that I can try to add and improve to myself."
The NFL announced that tight end Jack Doyle has been selected to his first-career Pro Bowl.