INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts had showed interest in Reece Fountain his last two years at the University of Northern Iowa, but it was his performance in the East-West Shrine Game in January that really convinced general manager Chris Ballard to make a run at the wide receiver in the 2018 NFL Draft.
After an impressive week of practices, Fountain was named offensive Most Valuable Player in the East-West Shrine Game itself, collecting a game-best 61 receiving yards and adding 40 yards as a punt returner in the West's 14-10 victory at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Sure, Fountain was coming from an FCS school, but getting the chance to see how he excelled against some higher-level competition, as well as getting the chance to have some more in-depth conversations with the player himself, was all the evidence Ballard and his staff were looking for.
"(Fountain is) a great kid and very talented," Ballard told reporters after the draft. "He stood out at the East-West game. Our scouts liked him when they were in Northern Iowa, but whenever they saw him at the East-West game they got more excited about him.
"He's an explosive kid," Ballard continued. "He is going to need a little time from a small school, but we like his upside."
That explosiveness, as well as the upside, could work out very well in Fountain's favor, as the Colts enter the 2018 season with just three returning wide receivers who logged at least 20 receptions last year in T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant.
Beyond those three players, the position seems wide open for the taking.
At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Fountain adds much-needed size to the Colts' wide receiver corps, and he hopes to use it to his advantage in training camp and the preseason to earn one of those spots come Week 1.
"I feel like I am a real versatile receiver," Fountain said. "I believe I can stretch the field if you need me to. I can be that big receiver who can go up and take balls or I can be that quick slot receiver if you need to mismatch me against any linebackers or safeties. So I believe I can play all over the field."
That's exactly what Fountain was able to do in his 52 games at Northern Iowa, where he logged 150 receptions for 2,077 yards and 23 touchdowns. Last season, he earned First Team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors after catching 66 passes for 943 yards and 12 scores.
Fountain's 12 receiving touchdowns ranked fifth in single-season school history while his 66 receptions ranked ninth.
Now getting his first professional opportunity, Fountain said he has been impressed by head coach Frank Reich's approach so far. At the NFL level, Fountain learned, it's not all about who has the best 40-yard dash time, who jumps the highest or who can lift the most weight.
"He gave us the five traits about how to be a pro. Toughness was the big thing. That was one of the things that stood out for me," Fountain said. "At this level, everyone is talented, so you've got to find some way to make yourself stand out. So toughness, technique, all that good stuff. Find a way to stand out."
And, at this point, after flashing some of his talents throughout the Colts' offseason workout program, Fountain waits until the team reports to training camp July 25 to continue the process of carving his role — which, he acknowledged, sometimes is less about what you do on the field and more about what you can observe from others.
"It's been really great being able to get a chance to just dive in the playbook and just learn," Fountain said. "There are a lot of good receivers here, a lot of good coaches here, so I'm just trying to be a student of the game and just take everything I can."
2018 NFL Draft - 5th Round 159th Overall - DAURICE FOUNTAIN