INDIANAPOLIS — Imagine growing up across the street from the All-Pro running back of your favorite professional football team.
Then imagine coming back to your hometown years later and beginning the process of starting your own NFL career.
That was Jon Toth's reality last week, as he returned to Indianapolis to take part in the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
"It's awesome," Toth said. "I feel like I have homefield advantage."
Toth, who turned in a solid career as a four-year starter along the offensive line at Kentucky, is considered one of the top center prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft class, but his interest in football was really sparked during his childhood, when the Indianapolis Colts were the cream of the crop in the AFC.
And while Toth loved watching guys like Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday tear it up on the RCA Dome turf, he got an up-close-and-personal experience with another key member of those late 1990s/early-2000s Colts teams: running back Edgerrin James.
"I actually lived across the street from Edgerrin James for a couple years," Toth told reporters last week. "And for one of my birthdays, we went over to his house, and we hung out with him for a little bit. He signed a bunch of footballs for us. He's a great guy."
Toth also paid attention to his hometown being the host city of the annual Scouting Combine, and could only dream of participating in the event one day.
"Yeah, it was definitely something that I saw, and I was like, 'Wow, that would be pretty awesome to be at,'" Toth said. "And now that I'm here, it's pretty surreal."
But make no mistake: while Toth is certainly thankful to be involved in the process, he wants to make sure he takes advantage of his opportunity.
He more-than held up his own for four years up front against multiple future NFL players while playing in the Southeastern Conference, something that will be highlighted in his game film against opponents like Alabama, Florida, Auburn, LSU and others.
"Yeah, the SEC, there's going to be great guys you're going to go against every week. That's what it's all about," Toth said. "So I think just any SEC player has an advantage because they are facing the best of the best every week."
A major goal for Toth, not only in the Combine, but moving forward, is to show teams that he's not necessarily anchored at center. Versatility is a major buzzword in the NFL, and those who can fill in at multiple positions up front are typically regarded as extremely valuable assets.
"I'm going to focus on as many things that can make me as appealing to a team as possible, and obviously that would include playing guard, and maybe even tackle," Toth said. "I'm going to stick to what I know best, and I'm a center — I played center for four years — but obviously you want to be able to contribute as much as you can to any team."
When it comes to his hometown team, Toth questions how "realistic" it would be for the Colts to pick him up in this year's draft, given the fact they drafted two centers — Ryan Kelly and Austin Blythe — last year.
But no matter where he ends up, even with the Colts, Toth hopes to prove that he belongs.
"That would be awesome," Toth said of playing for the Colts. "I'm here to provide my services to any team that wants me, so I'm not going to be picky when it comes to that. Whoever at the end of the day wants me to contribute, I'll be glad."
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