Colts Select Connecticut Running Back Donald Brown with No. 27 overall selection
INDIANAPOLIS – They targeted him from the start of the NFL Draft process. From before the start, actually.
On Saturday evening, the Colts got one of their guys.
Donald Brown, a productive, dynamic running back from the University of Connecticut, early Saturday night became the latest in a long line of first-round "skill position" draft selections for the Colts when the franchise selected him with the No. 27 overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft.
"I'm happy, I'm relieved, I'm excited," Brown said shortly after his selection.
Colts President Bill Polian called Brown, "A scintillating player."
"He catches the ball, blocks . . ." Polian said. "We lost (veteran running back) Dominic Rhodes (as an unrestricted free agent). We replaced him with Donald Brown."
The Colts, who entered the draft with eight selections and still had a second round selection to use on the first day of the draft, had about four players targeted entering the day, Polian said.
Polian said Brown was among those players.
"He was, in our opinion, the best player left," Polian said. "Interestingly enough, everything went exactly as we thought it would."
Brown, an early-entry junior, led the nation in rushing this past season, averaging 160.23 yards a game. He rushed for 2,083 yards and 18 touchdowns on 367 carries and also caught 21 passes for 125 yards.
"It's a good day anytime you can get a guy who's a game-breaker," Polian said. "This guy is a game-breaker. He has the ability to take the ball all the way.
"He's a great kid and we're thrilled to have him."
Jim Caldwell, entering his first season as the Colts' head coach, called Brown "an outstanding talent."
"We're very excited about it," Caldwell said. "He's a guy who's going to come in and do some fine things for us. He certainly has the speed and ability to run the ball. Not only that, he'll understand and learn the protections and our offensive scheme in a short period of time."
It was Caldwell who placed the call informing Brown of the selection.
"The first thing he asked me about was the offensive installation for this coming weekend (minicamp) and the playbook," Caldwell said. "He's the kind of a guy who has the kind of personality we are typically accustomed to working with."
The Colts now have six first-round selections at "skill" positions. They are:
Quarterback Peyton Manning (No. 1 overall, 1998), running back Joseph Addai (No. 30 overall, 2006), wide receiver Reggie Wayne (No. 30 overall, 2001), tight end Dallas Clark (No. 24 overall, 2004), wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (No. 32 overall, 2007) and Brown. This is the third time in 12 drafts with the Colts Polian selected a running back in the first round.
He also selected running back Edgerrin James No. 4 overall in 1999 and Addai in 2006.
Addai rushed for 1,000 yards in 2006 and 2007, making the Pro Bowl following the 2007 season.
"It's imant to have two good backs in the system," Caldwell said. "No question about that. Just because of the fact that the workload that is put on that position week in and week out. You need two guys who can carry the mail for you –at least two."
Brown said he wants to "contribute in any way possible."
"There's a Pro Bowl running back there," Brown said. "The opportunity to learn from one will be a great experience. . . . I just want to be as versatile as possible."
Brown, who started 23 of 37 games for the Huskies, rushed for 3,800 yards and 33 touchdowns in three seasons, and while he returned kickoffs at times in college, Polian said that won't be his role immediately.
"He can return kickoffs," Polian said. "I don't see us using him there – at least not at first.'
Brown said his running style compares with former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber.
"He's just a couple of years out, but I'd say I have a comparative running style with Tiki Barber," Brown said.
Caldwell said Brown was one of the first players he and Polian discussed when they met to begin draft planning in recent weeks. Polian said his focus on Brown began when he spoke to UConn Head Coach Randy Edsall when Edsall was making exploratory calls regarding Brown's decision to forego his senior year.
"We said, 'Here's a guy who fits everything we want in a football player,'" Caldwell said. "There isn't a thing wrong with him. He's everything we'd like to have in a Colts player.
"Randy I had a long conversation about him, so I had seen him play, No. 1. No. 2, Randy and I had a very long conversation about him, too."
Polian said several scouts whole-heartedly agreed with the assessment.
"Bob Ferguson, one of the national scouts, took a look at the film the other day and was just gushing about him," Polian said. "We just felt his game-breaking style – his all-around ability: blocking, catching – really attracted us. Remember, we don't base things on statistics – even though his statistics are outstanding – or notoriety or things like that. We base it on what you see with your eyes."
Brown said his agent had predicted he would be selected by the Colts.
"Lo and behold, the Colts made the pick," he said.