INDIANAPOLIS — Byron Lusby, an area scout for the Indianapolis Colts who focuses on the Southwest region, and general manager Chris Ballard discuss what they saw in linebacker E.J. Speed, the Colts' fifth-round (164th-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft:
I'm very intrigued by Speed's background. Where did he come from?
Lusby: "He was a workout guy. He had a good workout, and so we started digging to do more information. He's big, he's fast, explosive, he's smart and loves football. He came from the workout, he had a very good workout and that got our interest. We brought him up here and had a visit with him. We like the kid; he's smart, he's tough, he's what we're looking for, so we like him."
What's the process that you use to determine whether a prospect has the character traits that you want? Because Speed did have an issue when he was younger.
Lusby: "He made a mistake when he was younger; we go back and talk to his coaches, the coaching staff. His head coach left so we talked to him. And they all signed off on the kid. And you just go back and vet all the sources that you can talk to, you talk to as many people as you can to get a feel for him."
And it sounds like you had no issues with it.
Lusby: "Yes, we brought him here on a visit, we sat down, had dinner with him, we talked to him. He was very open and honest about the incident and we felt good about it."
How do you try to translate what he did at Tarleton State and how it could work at the NFL level? Is that tough to do?
Lusby: "It is, but what you do is you look for traits. He's big and he's fast. And you look at how he plays on tape. Those are the things you can't coach. You can't coach an athlete, you can't coach speed. He's willing to work, he's a worker, he's tough, he competes; if he'll do that it'll figure itself out."
The fact he turned down Division I offers to stay close to his brother who had been diagnosed with cancer; is that the kind of loyalty and character you're looking for?
Lusby: "Yeah, that's what we're looking for. When he gets here he's gonna be loyal to his teammates, and he's all about team, he's all about family and that's what we're trying to create here."
It feels like it was a short period of time between Speed not really being on your board at all to becoming a fifth-round selection. Is that unusual?
Lusby: "I mean, it happens, but that's why you build up all these relationships over the years with coaches. You never know when you're gonna need them, so we have several staff members that knew people that knew the kid from high school that can vouch for him through the recruitment process, through all his background stuff. So that's why you build those relationships. You build relationships with people you trust so you get the right info."
Colts general manager Chris Ballard also talked about Speed in a press conference after the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft:
Ballard: "You can just look at my history from the Lone Star Conference. Danieal Manning, Johnny Knox, J'Marcus Webb – we all, we drafted. I worked in Kingsville where I coached all those players so I know the conference really well. We comb, our scout went in there and had a grade on him. He had a great workout. We were combing the numbers. He had an unbelievable workout. We started studying him more and we just see a guy that's got really big upside as an inside backer. We think he can play WILL, MIKE or SAM. In this scheme, ideally you would like them to be able to play all three spots. Anthony Walker can line up and play all three spots. Darius Leonard can play all three spots. Those guys are valuable, especially when somebody goes down and you've got to flip them. We'll put him at WILL to start, but at the end of the day we are hoping that he can play all three spots."