Jake Witt was the Colts' final pick in the 2023 NFL Draft – seventh round, No. 236 overall. But that he was even drafted at all is remarkable – this is a guy who, three years ago, was in college just as a regular student.
Not an athlete – a student. At Northern Michigan University, where he enrolled after one season as a basketball player at Michigan Tech.
Witt played basketball and football in high school, and mostly excelled at hooping. He was a four-year starter on Ewen Trout High School's basketball team in Michigan's Upper Peninsula; he was named Upper Peninsula Mr. Basketball as a senior and was the valedictorian of his 16-person graduating class, per the Athletic’s Dane Brugler.
Witt picked up football as a junior in high school, but his small school played eight-man football.
After spending 2019 as a member of Northern Michigan's student body, Witt decided to give football another shot – but his walk-on year of 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He finally hit the field for Northern Michigan in 2021 as a tight end.
In his ninth game as a tight end, Northern Michigan ran out of tackles and asked Witt slide in there. He did; he was good enough at it that he converted to tackle full-time in 2022.
And now, Witt was drafted by the Colts.
That's not exactly the journey most 2023 NFL Draft picks followed. But through those experiences, and the lessons Witt learned, he'll join the Colts eager to learn and make his way in the NFL.
"It's been a lot of changes," Witt said. "Just had to be open to everything. Be a sponge when it comes to learning. That's how I've succeeded playing basketball, then to football and then two positions in football. Just learn from a lot of guys, try to be a sponge like I said and just take everything in."
Witt had an idea he could be drafted, or at the least he'd garner some pre-draft interest, because he knew he'd test well at his pro day. But he was on the Colts' radar before his pro day, where he ran a 4.89 40-yard dash, had a vertical leap of 37 inches and recorded a 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump – this at 6-foot-7 and 302 pounds.
The Colts continued to show interest after his pro day, and conducted a private workout with Witt after. And on Saturday, he got the call from a 317 number: His unprecedented journey led him to being drafted.
"As the process has unfolded, the Colts have continued to be there as a team that was backing me and wanting me and part of that program the entire time," Witt said. "Just super excited to be in Indianapolis and be with a program that has shown that love and support for me since the start."