INDIANAPOLIS – Tight end Coby Fleener spent the previous three seasons as a popular target for Andrew Luck at Stanford.
Fleener joined Indianapolis last April in the second round of the NFL Draft, 33 selections after the Colts tabbed Luck as the top overall pick. Now he has joined Luck under contract with the Colts, and he is ready to take the next official step of his football career.
"I am happy to have this out of the way," said Fleener. "It's time to play some Colts football, and that's what I'm here to do."
Fleener, 6-6, 252, had 96 receptions for 1,543 yards in his four years with the Cardinal. His 18 career touchdowns ranked first all-time among Stanford tight ends. Seventeen of his 18 career touchdown receptions came in his final two seasons.
Fleener helped Stanford win 31 of its last 38 games. After the school had posted seven consecutive losing seasons, it played in two straight BCS bowl games (2010 and 2011), a first for the program in years.
In 2011, Fleener had 34 receptions for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns. He earned All-America honors from The Sporting News, the first Stanford tight end since 1959 to earn such notice. Fleener started 16 of 51 career outings, never playing in fewer than 12 games in a season, and he opened 12 of 26 games over the last two seasons.
The selection of Fleener, the drafting of Luck and the addition of Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen with a third-round choice are moves that will play a part in remaking the Indianapolis offense in 2012. Fleener's selection was the first time since 2003 the club had invested a pick as high on a tight end. That previous choice was for Dallas Clark in the 24th draft slot, and Clark went on to set franchise records as a tight end with 427 receptions and 46 touchdowns in his nine-year career with Indianapolis.
Fleener will toil under Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians, who was known in his previous stop in Pittsburgh to employ a multiple tight end offense. That look would be familiar to Colts fans as well, dating back to the production of Clark and former tight ends Ken Dilger and Marcus Pollard.
"There's a variety of tight ends, Dallas included, that I've watched and liked to pick up different pointers as far as their pros and cons of how they play the game that I can use in mine," said Fleener upon his selection. "It's an exciting time to be a tight end. … I want to be a four-down tight end. I pride myself on versatility, speed and having solid hands."
"Obviously his speed and his jumping ability (are good), but watching him improve as a blocker in college was special, especially his dedication in the weight room and the film room," Luck said of Fleener in April.
Fleener was present in Indianapolis through much of the spring and has gained a level of comfort and knowledge with the system and his teammates. Having Luck is a benefit, and Fleener bettered himself with the competition in Organized Team Activities and in the mandatory full-squad mini-camp that concluded in mid-June.
"I'm very comfortable with Andrew, both on and off the field. I think it's more than just us having chemistry. I think it's him being a darn good quarterback," said Fleener. "I can't say enough to be on this team and be thankful to have him as a quarterback.
"(The mini-camp was) a whirlwind. Not only are we trying to learn a whole new language as far as the playbook but to go against some of the guys that are All-Pro and just veteran studs, is an amazing thing. … I think once the pads come on it will be even more of a step up. I'm excited for that day."
Alfredo Roberts, the club's tight ends coach, is pleased with the additions of Fleener and Allen, and he has instructed them of the work ahead.
"Adding Dwayne (Allen) and Coby (Fleener) has really changed the environment in the (meeting) room," said Roberts. "They understand that to be very good players in this league, the body of work has to be put in now to get ready to play on Sunday. It's been a joy to me because they've accepted everything we've talked about. They look forward to getting better each day."
The Colts report to training camp on Saturday, July 28, and practices begin on Sunday. Indianapolis will be training at Anderson University for a third consecutive year. The team will conduct 26 practices at Anderson, and the first preseason game is August 12 versus St. Louis in Lucas Oil Stadium.