INDIANAPOLIS — The way some people talk about Jack Mewhort, you'd think he was 37 years old.
In fact, by the start of the 2018 regular season, Mewhort will be just 27.
But because the first four years of his NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts featured so many highs and lows — the highs of being one of the top up-and-coming offensive linemen in the league, and then the lows of missing lots of time with nagging knee issues — Mewhort likely feels more like a grizzled veteran than a guy just entering his fifth year in 2018.
As he hit the open free agent market this offseason having missed a combined 17 games the past two seasons — and with some more work to do to get his knees back to playing shape — Mewhort wondered if any team would take a chance on him.
Fortunately, he didn't have to wait long.
On March 21, a week after the start of free agency, the Colts — the team that selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft — decided to give Mewhort the chance he was so badly looking for, signing him to a reported one-year deal and giving him an opportunity to get his career back on track.
Mewhort says he certainly isn't the only player that has had to fight through injuries, but to have the Colts' faith is "an unreal feeling."
"I think it's human nature to always have that doubt creep in — 'What if they don't want me? What if no one wants me?'" Mewhort said. "So, for them to, like I said, extend this and show faith has been – it's an unreal feeling. And it makes it even better for it to be the team you were drafted by, the city that you've lived in for the last four years and been able to call your home. I can't stop saying it – the opportunity is unreal. Now it's all on me to show that I'm worth it and I can get back to being who I know I am."
Mewhort was almost an instant starter for the Colts from the get-go, starting 14 games his rookie season in 2014, and then starting all 16 games for the team the following year. Over that span, he was widely regarded as one of the top young guards in the league.
But that's when the injury issues started.
In 2016, Mewhort suffered a knee injury Week 6 against the Houston Texans and would miss the next three games before returning to start Weeks 11 through 14. But in that Week 14 matchup, also against the Texans, Mewhort was rolled up on a screen play to running back Frank Gore, and he wouldn't return to the field for the rest of the season.
Leading up to the 2017 season, Mewhort continued to battle with subsequent knee issues. He was a limited participant in the team's offseason workout program and during training camp, and tried sitting out one day of practice each week once the regular season began.
After starting the first five games of the season at right guard, Mewhort and the team had decided enough was enough. He was placed on Injured Reserve and underwent season-ending surgery.
But now, after continuing to rest and recover, and then focus on rehab work, Mewhort says he's feeling "really good."
It's that fight to get back that convinced Colts general manager Chris Ballard that Mewhort is "everything you want."
"He fights, cares. Just unfortunately had some bad luck with the knees, but he's everything we want in a Colt," Ballard said. "He's tough. He's accountable. He's accountable to himself. He's accountable to his teammates.
"Just, at the end of the day, I'm going to bet on Jack and let's see if he can get back to where he was at one point."
Mewhort seems to be on the right track. He was an active participant in the Colts' offseason workout program this time around, and was seen during OTAs and minicamp primarily working in as what could be considered the "second-team" left guard.
But because of his position flexibility — Mewhort can play tackle, too — and because the Colts have expressed an interest in having as many as 10 offensive linemen on their 53-man roster by the time the regular season begins, don't be surprised at all if the now-grizzled veteran Mewhort, with his knee issues hopefully in the rear-view mirror, begins pushing for a major role by the time training camp rolls around.
"I do believe that I'm going to be able to be out there and be playing at a high level," Mewhort said. "I'm getting stronger every day. I'm feeling better every day. I've been moving around on the field, and I'm feeling good. At this point in my career, obviously I'm dinged up, and like you guys said, I've had to deal with some stuff. But for all that being said, I feel pretty darn good, and like I said, having the Colts show faith like this is making me feel even better."
The Colts re-signed free agent offensive lineman Jack Mewhort.