Colts’ local Pro Day big opportunity for Marian’s Brandon Dillon, Purdue’s Jake Thieneman, more

Colts GM Chris Ballard

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The notion was driven home before 40-plus NFL wannabes strolled into the indoor practice facility Saturday morning at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

Some of you are going to make it.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a first-round pick in the April 25 draft, the 254th and final selection, or an undrafted rookie.

Some of you are going to make it.

Never mind that the vast majority of the individuals invited to the Indianapolis Colts’ local Pro Day aren’t expected to hear their names called during the three-day draft process. Shoot, only three or four had been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

Some of you are going to make it.

“We do have some prospects here that I do think will get drafted and get a shot in the league,’’ Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard said. “You never know when one will catch your eye.’’

Maybe it’s Purdue quarterback David Blough, who remains miffed and motivated that he wasn’t invited to the Combine after passing for 9,550 yards and 69 touchdowns for the Boilermakers, or three Indiana prospects who undoubtedly benefitted from going through the Combine experience: offensive lineman Brandon Knight, safety Jonathan Crawford and long-snapper Dan Godsil.

Or maybe it’s Brandon Dillon, an NAIA All-American tight end out of Marian. Or Purdue safety Jake Thieneman.

“I firmly believe I’m a (draft-worthy) player,’’ offered Thieneman, who emerged from Boilermaker walk-on to team captain. “Whether or not that happens, I’ll take the chips as they fall.

“But regardless drafted or undrafted, I’m going to go into rookie minicamp and fall camp with a mindset that I’m going to make this team, I’m going to contribute, I’m going to play, I’m going to help this team win games and help this team win a Super Bowl.’’

Dillon spoke from a similar script. His confidence for stacking up against major school competition was buoyed when he was the only NAIA player invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, held in January at the Rose Bowl.

“That was an awesome experience,’’ Dillon said. “It didn’t matter where you came from. I was competing against guys from Texas, USC.’’

It was clear he was listening when Ballard addressed the Pro Day prospects prior to Saturday’s workouts.

“You can be a first-round draft pick or an undrafted free agent,’’ he said. “They’re going to treat you the same. You’re going to have the same opportunities.

“If you can play football, you can play football. Once you get your foot in the door, you take it from there.’’

That, in essence, was the purpose of Saturday’s Pro Day: give lesser-heralded talent an audience with Ballard and his scouting staff, and with Frank Reich and his coaching staff. Make an impression, whether it’s a first impression or a lasting one that translates into being drafted or signed in the hours after the draft.

While the group as a whole might merit long-shot status, that doesn’t mean no shot.

Two years ago, a pair of Warren Central H.S. standouts participated in the Colts’ Pro Day: Marian wideout Krishawn Hogan and Cincinnati center Deyshawn Bond.

Hogan signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie in May 2017, was cut and signed to the Colts’ practice squad. He became the first Marian product to appear in an NFL game in ’17, but suffered a season-ending knee injury. He spent time on the practice squad last season and currently is on the active roster.

“Me and Krishawn are good friends,’’ Dillon said. “We’ve talked about it and he’s helped guide me through the process.’’

The Colts have had Dillon on their radar for more than a year.

“We’ve just developed a good relationship,’’ he said.

When Arizona waived Hogan, Ballard noticed.

“I went back and pulled up this (Pro Day) workout and said, ‘Let me take one more look at the workout,’’’ he said. “We ended up seeing something we liked and said let’s bring him in.’’

Bond signed with the hometown Colts as a rookie in May ’17. He not only earned a spot on the opening-day roster, but started the first four games when an ankle injury sidelined center Ryan Kelly. Bond suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury in week 4 against Seattle.

“He stood out,’’ Ballard said of Bond’s Pro Day workout. “He absolutely stood out. That was a big selling point for us.’’

Twelve months ago, Ball State defensive end Anthony Winbush went through the local Pro Day. He signed with the Atlanta Falcons, was waived and spent time on the Colts’ practice squad.

Some of you are going to make it.

“We’ve all been in that position where we’re fighting and scratching to make that team,’’ Reich said. “We had a meeting yesterday . . . we’re going to coach these guys up today. We want them to have the best opportunity.’’

Reich added often he can single out a bona fide NFL prospect by “body movement.’’

“It doesn’t take that long that, ‘Oh, let’s keep an eye on this guy. OK, let’s go back and watch the tape. Let’s even watch more tape. Oh, let’s bring this guy in for the rookie minicamp,’’’ he said.

“This is step one, and ‘OK, maybe he’s not the training camp (prospect), but he’s the rookie minicamp (player).’ Then, boom, from rookie minicamp he shows a little bit more and that gets the invitation to training camp.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

Listen to the weekly Colts Bluezone Podcast to hear Chappell and the gang give an in-depth breakdown on everything Colts.

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