Michigan Running Back Mike Hart One of Colts' Four Sixth-Round Selections
INDIANAPOLIS - A long, difficult day ended in what Mike Hart said was positive fashion.
Hart, a running back from the University of Michigan and the leading rusher in school history, entered the second day of the 2008 NFL Draft figuring he would be selected in the fourth round, maybe the fifth. Late in the day, the Colts made him the third of their four sixth-round selections.
With 200 players being selected before him, Hart said he didn't like the wait.
He did like how it ended.
"I'm glad I ended up where I ended up, to tell you the truth," said Hart, the 36th selection of the sixth round, the 202nd selection overall.
Hart, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher in college, was part of a rapid-fire several minutes late in the sixth-round for the Colts, a period in which they also selected:
• Tom Santi, tight end, Virginia. The Colts selected Santi with the 30th selection of the round, the 196th selection overall. The second tight end selected by the Colts Sunday, Santi finished a four-year collegiate career with 97 receptions for 1,184 yards and six touchdowns. He caught 36 passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns this past season.
• Steve Justice, center, Wake Forest. The Colts selected Justice with the 35th selection of the round, the 201st selection overall. The second interior offensive linemen selected by the Colts this weekend, he was an Associated Press first-team All-American as a senior. He played four seasons for the Demon Deacons, starting the last three seasons and earning All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors the past two seasons.
• Pierre Garcon, wide receiver, Mount Union. The Colts selected Garcon with the 39th selection of the round, the 205th selection overall. Playing at the Division III level, he caught 246 passes for 4,380 yards and 60 touchdowns. He also returned kicks and punts.
Hart, a two-time finalist for the Doak Walker Award – given annually to college football's top running back – said he believed his draft status was hurt by several factors, his size (5-feet-9, 202 pounds) and speed (4.72-second 40-yard dash at the combine) among them.
"Those are things I couldn't really help that much," Hart said. "Not only that, this is a deep running back pool this year. That didn't really help me out at the same time."
Hart, who rushed for 5,040 yards and 41 touchdowns on 1,015 carries in his collegiate career, averaged more than 117 yards per game rushing in college. A four-year starter, he was the third true freshman to lead the Big 10 in rushing, gaining 1,455 yards with nine touchdowns on 282 carries in 2004.
He started eight games the following season, rushing for 662 yards and four touchdowns on 150 carries despite missing several games with ankle and hamstring injuries. He then rushed for a career-high 1,562 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior and 1,361 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.
Still, because of his speed and size, Hart said he heard questions about his ability to play in the NFL throughout college and the pre-draft process.
"You get tired of it, but it's part of the game," he said. "Hopefully, I can get to this next level and try to prove myself again and silence a lot of people. But you're always going to have doubters. I'm always going to have doubters."
Added Hart, "I never questioned myself. There's nothing you can really do. It's out of my hands from that point. I was just hoping I got picked up somewhere (so he could) go and try to prove myself again."
For Hart, the phone call that ended his wait came around 4:30 p.m. Before that, he said he spent the day watching the draft with family and friends in his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., a process that grew difficult as the day wore on.
Finally, he took his niece on a bike ride.
"I stopped watching TV," he said. "It was just sitting around waiting."
And while he waited, he said his motivation grew.
"That's one thing I kept talking about when I kept slipping and slipping – it's got me a little fired up," Hart said. "I'm ready to go. I'm back like it's my freshman year. It brought me back down to earth. Now, I have to go in there and compete and try to prove myself again.
"I'm ready to get going and get to playing football again."