INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts on Saturday hosted about 40 NFL hopefuls in their annual Local Pro Day.
The event serves as a way for talented players who played at local colleges or hometowns to showcase their talents in front of the team’s staff with the 2019 NFL Draft less than two weeks away.
Similar to the Scouting Combine and how colleges operate their individual pro days, the Colts’ staff put the players through a number of drills led by the team’s coordinators and position coaches to see what basic skills and traits they possess.
"It's a good day for us. This local day is something we all look forward to, to be able to get local kids that played here in high school in Indiana and colleges around the state,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard told reporters before the workout began. “I think it's a credit to the state, especially our high school coaches and the work that they've done to develop these programs and develop kids.
“But it's an exciting time, man,” Ballard continued. “This is a fun day for our coaches, for the players (and) a chance for us to continue to dig and turn over every stone for players, so we look forward to it."
While it’s typically lesser-known players who participate in this event who haven’t received the same attention as some of their peers in the draft class, the Colts do not approach this event casually. Ballard said his scouting staff had already done a good amount of work on about 75 percent of the participants in Saturday's Local Pro Day.
"It's probably no different than any pro day we go to. There's guys here that I think will get drafted,” Ballard said. “We do have some prospects here that I do think will get drafted and definitely get shots in the league, but you never know when one will catch your eye.”
Take Krishawn Hogan, for example. While Hogan dominated at Marian University in Indianapolis, he needed every opportunity possible to show NFL teams what he could do coming from an NAIA background. The wide receiver took part in the Colts' Local Pro Day 2017 and eventually went undrafted, but would find his way back to Indy and the Colts thanks in part to his Local Pro Day workout.
“Krishawn Hogan was a prospect when we brought him here. Even though we didn't sign him initially, we would go back — I remember whenever he got cut from Arizona, I went back and pulled his workout and said 'Let me take one more look at the workout,' and we ended up seeing something we liked and said, 'Let's bring him in,'" Ballard said.
Hogan was one of two participants in 2017’s Local Pro Day who would eventually sign a contract with the Colts — his former Warren Central High School teammate, center Deyshawn Bond, being the other.
In 2018, Ball State defensive end Anthony Winbush and Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales both participated in the Local Pro Day and spent time with the Colts during the season. Hogan and Winbush remain with the Colts currently.
Those types of players, while they might not necessarily get the pre-draft hype of others at their positions, are typically easy to pick out in the Local Pro Day setting, Colts head coach Frank Reich said.
"You do kind of feel it," said Reich, who is entering his second season as the Colts' head coach. "There's just something about — we talk about body movements all the time — and it doesn't take long to say, 'Oh, let's keep an eye on this guy. OK, now let's go back and watch the tape. Let's even watch more tape. Oh, let's bring this guy in for the rookie minicamp.' That's a lot of what it is."
From there, if a player can keep catching the coaching staff's eye, anything is possible.
“A lot of times, you see here (and think), 'OK, maybe he's not (for) the training camp, but maybe he's (for) the rookie minicamp,'” Reich said. “And then, boom, from rookie minicamp he shows a little bit more. And then, that gets the invitation to training camp."
As an underdog and backup most of his playing career, Reich knows what it’s like to be an NFL hopeful who’s just looking for a chance. Because of that, his staff wants to do right by the group of players working out on Saturday.
"We've all been in that position where we're fighting and scratching to make the team,” Reich said. “So, as coaches — we had a meeting yesterday — and we're gonna coach these guys up today. We've taken a good look at a lot of these guys and prepared for today and want to give them the best opportunity. Of course, we all know there's Krishawn and Anthony Winbush; we all know there's examples of guys that make the team from this day."
PARTICIPANTS HOPE PERFORMANCE DOES THE TALKING
Although many of Saturday’s participants have made their rounds to meet and workout with NFL teams over the last couple of months, they were especially grateful to perform back in their own community in front of their hometown team.
"For me, this is the next step in the process so I can show coaches that I can play in this league and that I'm somebody that they want in their organization,” Purdue quarterback David Blough said. “It was really a great day and a lot of fun getting to learn from the coaches here in Indianapolis and being able to show what I can do."
Blough, who feels he was snubbed from the Combine in February, has been using workouts like Saturday’s as motivation.
"I believe I deserved to be there, but like I said, two weeks from now it's not gonna matter,” Blough said. “Whether you're the first pick or not, I'll come in your quarterback room and I'll compete with you until somebody kicks me out.”
Knowing how seriously the Colts take their Local Pro Day also gives the players a little extra juice.
"That excites me, knowing that they do, and it's not just an event where they've got guys working out," former Lawrence Central High School standout and University of Missouri linebacker Brandon Lee told Colts.com. "I mean, they're truly doing their scouting and looking to take guys from the local area. So, I mean it gives you hope that at least one of the 41 guys that were here today — one, two or three maybe — might get an opportunity here in town. I mean, I'd be happy for any guy here who got that opportunity, just being from the city, and hopefully it's me."
The prospect of being signed and hopefully playing for your hometown team is also a longtime dream for these participants. If the opportunity arises for Lee, he’s got his sights set on the bigger picture.
"It'd be amazing to me and family, but more than anything I think it would show the community — with me growing up here in the actual local area of Indianapolis — it'd just give them a vision and give them hope that they can make it happen as well, and that it's not always a guy from Texas or a guy from the South or this, that and the other,” Lee continued. “I think it would just give young kids a vision, and give me a lot of opportunities to give back to the community here."
Former Brownsburg High School and Marian University long snapper Owen Gilbert, who was former longtime Colts long snapper Justin Snow’s very first high school client, hoped to learn from the Colts’ staff where he stands among his competition.
"I just wanted to get some feedback, really. Just let myself know where I stand compared to the competition,” Gilbert, who won an NAIA national championship with Marian in 2015, said. “I've been to a few Combines so far, but I haven't really gotten any major feedback from any coaches or scouts on how I stand, so I was really happy to hear about my performance today and what they had to say."