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Marian football players get NFL opportunity

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Two Marian University football players are fulfilling two of their lifelong dreams in the span of three days.

Tight end Brandon Dillon and long snapper Owen Gilbert received their college diplomas Wednesday morning.  Friday, they'll participate in an NFL rookie mini-camp.

Dillon signed as an undrafted free agent with the Vikings, becoming the second former Knight to get an NFL contract after Krishawn Hogan, while Brownsburg's Gilbert will take part in the Colts' rookie camp as a try-out.

"This opportunity with the Colts is pretty much a dream come true," said Gilbert.  "I grew up a huge Colts' fan.  It's really cool that they're giving me this opportunity.  I'm definitely going to make the most of it, work my tail off and see what happens."

"I've been an underdog my whole life," Gilbert said.  "I went to a small high school and a small college.  The underdog role is nothing new to me.  Marian taught me how to work hard and hard work does win."

"It's great for our program," said head coach Mark Henninger.  "For these two guys, the hard work they put in, the sacrifices they made and to compete at a really high level both on and off the field is something that we will be pointing to for a really long time."

Gilbert caught the eye of NFL  scouts last year after their spring grades and after he snapped for one of them.

"One [snap] almost broke one of the scout's nose," Dillon recalls.  "That was a waking up moment for me.  Then after that I worked on it and worked on it.  I went to an all-star game and two camps and performed well."

Dillon first thought he might have a shot at the NFL after seeing Hogan go through the process.

"You see all of the scouts coming and they're watching Krishawn practice," said Gilbert.  "Then they come back and our coaches said they're watching you.  That's when I said this is real thing.  It could happen.  I never grew up thinking I was going to play in the NFL, but I kept growing."

Hogan signed with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2017.  He was waived after training camp, but landed on the Colts' roster.   He played in two games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.  He spent the 2018 season on the Colts' practice squad.

University president Dan Elsener awarded Dillon and Gilbert their diplomas in a short ceremony at the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital Hall of Champions on campus since they'll both miss Marian's commencement on Saturday while they're in camp.

Rookie camps open up Friday morning across the league and last through the weekend.

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