Stephon Gilmore has played in 132 games over his 10-year career spent primarily in the AFC with the Buffalo Bills (2012-2016), New England Patriots (2017-2020) and Carolina Panthers (2021).
But the first time the veteran cornerback runs out of the tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium as a member of the Colts will be only the second game he's played on his new home turf – and first since his rookie year of 2012.
Gilmore has come a long way in what'll be a decade between games in downtown Indianapolis. He's earned first-team AP All-Pro honors twice, has been to five Pro Bowls – including four in a row – and was named the 2019 AP Defensive Player of the Year. He picked off Jared Goff to help the Patriots smother the Rams and win a Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LIII. He has 26 interceptions, 89 pass break-ups and countless plays where his sticky, physical, smart, instinctive coverage forced an incomplete pass.
On Monday, Gilmore signed with the Colts after deciding the team was the right place for him to bring his talent, accolades and wisdom. Free agency was a deliberate process for Gilmore, who evaluated his opportunities for weeks before landing in Indianapolis.
"I wanted to weigh my options and see what's the right fit for me and my family," Gilmore said. "I felt this was the right situation and I'm just looking forward to it."
Gilmore visited the Colts' facility last week and came away impressed with the team's coaching staff and vision set forward by general manager Chris Ballard. And he already had a baseline knowledge of the talent assembled in Indianapolis, having observed the team from afar and been around the Colts' league-high seven Pro Bowlers in Las Vegas earlier this year.
One of those Pro Bowlers was cornerback Kenny Moore II, who spent the 2017 offseason and training camp with Gilmore in New England before the Colts claimed him on waivers.
"When Kenny came he was undrafted, we were deep in the secondary in New England," Gilmore said. "And then I'm like, who is this Kenny Moore kid, he's balling too. I just knew he was going to be successful seeing his work ethic as soon as he got in the league. I'm not surprised at the career he's having, just seeing it from Day 1. He's staying hungry and I'm excited for him, I'm excited to suit up with him."
Gilmore also already knows linebacker Darius Leonard, a fellow South Carolina native and frequent Pro Bowler himself.
"It's always good to see guys representing the state like that," Gilmore said. "He's a guy that earned it, been through a lot over his career but is able to play at the highest of high levels. I'm looking forward to the opportunity of playing with him."
In Gilmore, the Colts not only added a player with a fantastic on-field resume – he's limited opposing quarterbacks to just a 76.0 passer rating over his career – but also someone who can be counted on to be an outstanding cultural fit. For a team that fell short of the playoffs with two consecutive losses to end the 2021 season, Gilmore's experience making it to the NFL's zenith will add an important perspective in the coming weeks and months.
"You have to work at it, you have to – day in and day out, you have to extra, you have to outwork the other team, out-study them, out-prepare them," Gilmore said. "That's how you become great. It's not easy. So I'm just going to try to lead by example and let everyone see my work ethic and try to bring people on and go from there."
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