INDIANAPOLIS – Dwayne Allen is a believer.
He believes in giving back to the community ("I want fans to know that their Indianapolis Colts love them," Allen says.).
He believes in the Butler Bulldogs' ability to make a run in March (Allen is a season ticket holder for the NCAA Tournament-bound Dawgs).
Most importantly, Allen believes that one day he will be the NFL's best tight end.
It's a bold proclamation. Allen knows that.
But it's one he isn't straying away from after signing a four-year extension last week.
The Colts' commitment to Allen sent a clear message of how they view his future.
"It definitely churned the fire in my belly to go out there and continue to grind and become the best that I possibly can and be the best tight end in the National Football League," Allen said of his mindset after re-upping with the Colts.
The player Allen was in 2012 and 2014---a run-grading blocker, more than capable to move the chains and be a presence in the red zone---is what the Colts want from their top tight end.
Rob Chudzinski's past stops as an offensive coordinator have relied on the tight end position.
Chud used Kellen Winslow Jr. in Cleveland and Greg Olsen in Carolina as significant weapons within his system's passing game.
The versatility of Allen was a major appeal in the Colts wanting to keep him in Indianapolis.
On third-and-one, in a jumbo package, Allen can be your in-line blocker against a bigger defensive lineman/linebacker.
At the same time, when the Colts are facing a third-and-medium/third-and-long, Allen is still an option in the route tree if the Colts deploy a three-wide receiver, one-tight end set.
"Besides the broad skill set and overall talent level he brings, Dwayne's tenacity and physicality has always been what has set him apart from the beginning," GM Ryan Grigson says.
When Allen points to his first priority in 2016, it starts with his availability.
A freakish-hip injury halted Allen's second NFL season after just one game.
The past two years, ankle ailments have kept Allen off the field for six contests.
After training in Arizona last offseason, Allen is in Indy---under the watchful eye of a new Colts' strength staff.
Allen believes a fresh training philosophy in Indianapolis should keep him (and others) away from the nagging injuries.
If the Colts can rely on a healthy Allen in 2016, it will provide a young offensive core with a unique piece.
Once the ink dried on Allen's four-year deal, the 26-year-old tight end knew the meaning behind his signature.
"It was signed with expectations," Allen says.
"I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that I'm on the field, No. 1, but also I'm performing at my best when I'm on the field. There's already talk of me being overpaid. It's my job to now go out and prove that I'm worthy."
A few of my favorite images from Dwayne's 2015 player marketing shoot.