Jelani Woods held on to the ball from his first career touchdown, but he might put a little note on it.
The No. 73 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft adjusted his route when he saw quarterback Sam Ehlinger scrambling to his right during the third quarter of the Colts' preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills Saturday at Highmark Stadium. He went from working across the field to finding a pocket of space near the goal line; Ehlinger saw it and tossed the ball to Woods, who used his size and hands to catch the pass in traffic for an 11-yard touchdown.
"I had to keep that because that's just a lifelong dream," Woods told Colts Media's Larra Overton after the game. "Since you were a kid you've been dreaming of that moment no matter if it's preseason or not. So I'm definitely going to have that ball trophied up in my house.
"I might put preseason on it so I can let everybody know that was a preseason ball, that wasn't a real game ball, but still I'm going to enjoy it."
That was the kind of play the Colts envisioned the 6-foot-7 Woods making when they selected him in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft four months ago. Watching it back, the play read like the scouting report general manager Chris Ballard gave the night he drafted him.
"When you're 6-7," Ballard said, "the quarterback can put the ball up and he's athletic enough to be able to make a play on it."
Woods also added another 11-yard reception and got some valuable run blocking snaps over the 23 plays for which he was on the field on Saturday.
"It just brought so much joy to get back in a game scenario, the experience especially being my first game, just brought back a lot of joy," Woods said. "This is why I love football, this is why I do it and just getting away from training camp, getting into that type of environment."
So Woods will hang on to that football, the first of what the Colts hope are many touchdowns in the young tight end's career. And maybe the next one he catches will come when the outcome of the game matters.
"Hopefully we get him a couple in the regular season so they count," Ryan said, "but it was encouraging to see from him."