Colts Rookie Donye' McCleskey Says He'll Do What Is Necessary to Make Roster
INDIANAPOLIS – Donye' McCleskey said he knows he will have to adjust.
McCleskey, a safety from Indiana State University, said he knows that when he first begins working with the Colts he will be in a different situation than that to which he is accustomed.
He will not be the star. Not immediately.
But McCleskey said no way will that stop him, because he said his goal for the off-season – which for McCleskey in a sense began this week – is to forget about his past and simply do whatever is necessary to reach his goal.
And that is to earn an NFL roster position.
"I'm used to, 'Donye', get in front,'' McCleskey told reers at the Colts' recent 2010 rookie mini-camp at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "Or, 'Donye', you start here.' And now it's, 'Donye' third string.'
"And it's like,' Whoa.' "But I'm going to adjust, though."
For McCleskey that adjustment started the same day he learned he would get a chance at his dream.
McCleskey said he entered the April 2010 NFL Draft having been told by some he had a chance to be a late-round selection. When the draft ended and his name had not been announced, he had an opportunity to attend a tryout with the New York Jets.
Then, the Colts offered a free-agent contract.
McCleskey took the latter arrangement, and said considering his football background playing at a smaller collegiate program, he understood his situation.
"It was tough only because I had teams tell that they wanted to draft me, but that it would probably be late," he said. "But I didn't expect more than free agency because I know how it is coming from (smaller) schools.
"Unfortunately, that's just how it is. But I'm here."
McCleskey (6-feet-0, 225 pounds), who lettered four seasons at Indiana State, began his collegiate career playing mostly special teams, and told the school's website this past fall his career changed course when longtime Head Coach Dennis Raetz – who coached the Sycamores from 1980-1997 – moved from Compliance Officer to interim Head Coach in 2007.
"Coach Raetz felt like my talents weren't being used correctly when he took over," McCleskey told the website. "He moved me to the defensive secondary and kind of turned me loose. I feel like I have become a better football player since he jumped back into the football program."
McCleskey, who played in 39 career games for the Sycamores, finished his career with 264 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions and four passes defensed. He also forced four fumbles, returned a fumble for a touchdown and also returned a punt for a touchdown.
McCleskey also played 11 games as senior this past season, finishing with 91 tackles, a sack and a pass defensed.
"I came to ISU with one goal: to go to the NFL," McCleskey told the Indiana Statesman shortly after he signed with Indianapolis. "Until now, no one even believed that I could do it. I actually considered transferring after my sophomore year. The only reason I stayed is because I wanted to prove people wrong. I have had other students at my own school literally laugh in my face when I told them that I could go to the NFL from here, but I didn't let that kill my dreams. I used it as fuel. . . .
"Playing at Indiana State made me realize that there aren't enough dreamers in the world. There are too many dream-killers in the world and not enough dreamers. In years to come, I want people to read my story and realize that impossible is nothing; impossible only means that I'm possible."
And while McCleskey said he hoped to be drafted, he also said draft status means little once the draft is over. That's particularly true around the Colts, whose history of collegiate free agents to make an impact includes defensive captain and starting middle linebacker Gary Brackett, as well as safeties Jamie Silva and Melvin Bullitt, defensive tackle Eric Foster and cornerback Jacob Lacey.
"I was sitting with my phone hoping that it would ring and some coach would be telling me I was his next draft pick," McCleskey told the Statesman. "When the phone didn't ring, I didn't worry because I knew they would start calling. . . .
"But it's fine, that is why I play the game the way I do. I have a chip on my shoulder. I'm sick of being the underdog. I'm angry, and I will take that anger into camp."
McCleskey said he fully realized he was in the NFL a week after the draft. That was when he attended Colts 2010 rookie camp and realized his chance at the NFL dream was at hand.
"That was my first impression – 'Wow, I can't believe that I'm practicing on the same field as (Colts quarterback and four-time National Football league Most Valuable Player) Peyton Manning,'' he said. "It's amazing."
McCleskey, like the rest of the Colts' free-agent rookies and the eight-member draft class, began the next phase of the off-season this week when the team began organized team activities. There, he said, the dream becomes the work necessary to make the roster, and he said whatever it takes – playing special teams, playing in the practice squad – that's what he'll do.
"I'll play every special teams," he said. "I'll play two positions on every special teams if they want me to. Whatever they want me to do, you know? I want to be here. I can work my way to the top. I have before.
"I love this game. I'm going to put everything into it."