WESTFIELD, Ind. — Mike Strachan went 638 days between playing in an actual, live football game.
The Colts seventh round pick's last game before Sunday's preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers was on Nov. 16, 2019, while he played for Charleston (W.V.) College. One thousand seven-hundred ninety-nine fans showed up to watch Strachan have three catches for 128 yards with a touchdown against West Liberty.
The audience was a bit larger on Sunday both in person at Lucas Oil Stadium and on TV, with the game also televised locally and nationally on NFL Network.
And Strachan, who had three catches for 57 yards, impressed some of the best receivers to ever play football with what he put on tape against the Panthers.
"I believe in myself," Strachan said. "I just have that belief. I have a big heart and each day I want to come in here and compete."
One of Strachan's catches against the Panthers was an impressive high pointing of a 50/50 ball, which gained 32 yards and sparked a "clinic reel" two-minute drive by quarterback Jacob Eason. But as Eason saw it, there's really not such a thing as a 50/50 ball when throwing Strachan's way.
"For a split second, you can see the leverage he has on the corner, and you know his athletic ability so give him a shot," Eason said. "It's kind of one of those 50/50 back-shoulder balls and odds are Mike's going to win those."
Still, not every big-bodied wide receiver can walk into an NFL training camp and have the kind of success Strachan has had. There are nuances and details that have to be on point before someone of Strachan's stature can go up and snag a jump ball.
Veteran Colts cornerback Xavier Rhodes has spent some time after practices working on those things with Strachan, giving him pointers on what he as a defender is looking for to limit the effectiveness of someone who's 6-foot-5, 225 pounds and speedy.
And Rhodes would know — he's usually matched up on bigger receivers and has been lined up across guys like Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones and Brandon Marshall in his career.
"He has to keep working on his craft each and every day," Rhodes said. "Come with an agenda what to get better on each and every day. And if he can accomplish those goals, then he can be the best whomever he want."
(Strachan finished Wednesday's practice at Grand Park with a touchdown; he was lined up against Rhodes on the play.)
Strachan is part of a deep, competitive group of receivers making their mark on training camp over the last few weeks. He stood out in Sunday's game; so did Dezmon Patmon, Tyler Vaughns and Tarik Black, who all had splash plays.
The Colts want to see everyone in their wide receiver room continue to compete at the level they've been at throughout camp. And Strachan, certainly, is among the players who've turned heads at Grand Park — and now at Lucas Oil Stadium — over the last few weeks.
So we'll let one more legendary wide receiver close this out with some thoughts on Strachan.
"He's huge," T.Y. Hilton said. "Just throw it up, let him go get it. He runs really fast. I can't wait to see the things he continues to do."
The Indianapolis Colts return to action as they host the Carolina Panthers for their first game of the preseason.