By TOM JAMES
TERRE HAUTE TRIBUNE-STAR
Give Indianapolis Colts second-year general manager Ryan Grigson credit for his willingness to go the extra mile when it comes to finding prospective players.
Grigson added players last season from the Canadian Football League (inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman) and from the Indoor Football League (tight end Dominique Jones). Jones also spent time in the United Football League, along with cornerback Teddy Williams.
So far this year, the Colts have brought in outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, the team’s top draft pick who grew up in Germany, as well as former Kenyan rugby star turned outside linebacking prospect Daniel Adongo as a free agent.
Simply scouting and finding players at American universities just doesn’t cut it anymore. National Football League general managers like Grigson are expanding their search net to other countries and to other sports.
“I don’t discriminate. I would see guys in those [other professional] leagues where I’d say, ‘Heck, I was in three NFL training camps. That guy can play. Why is he in this league?’ I just figure we scour those leagues as best we can and maybe we look at 250 guys and we find three guys that look like suspects and out of those three suspects, one guy can play,” Grigson explained earlier in the week.
“We had a bunch of guys and that’s a credit to our pro scouts. They actually have part of their job description is to study those other leagues and to get film. It’s getting easier with the technology we have now and the internet and being able to upload those things but the tape quality is always not that good. But when you’re looking at players from small schools in the same way in the college evaluation process, it takes patience. You have to have guys that are willing to grind. If you have patience and you have a go-getter mindset, like I feel like our scouts have and work so hard, they’re going to find a way to find players.”
During his rise as a talent evaluator in the CFL and NFL, the former Purdue offensive lineman found out where to look for players. He wants the same type of tenacity from the Colts’ scouting staff.
“We don’t have those guys scout those leagues if we don’t want to find anybody. Don’t come to me and tell me after you looked at every guy in the CFL, Arena League and the IFL or UFL,” he explained. “Don’t tell me out of 1,000 bodies, we can’t find three guys that have a chance. It’s a numbers game.”
Looking beyond the borders -- The San Francisco 49ers signed former British Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye to a free agent deal in May. Okoye, like Adongo, has never played American-style football before.
Doesn’t matter. Both are exceptional athletes in their respective sports who have talents and the physical attributes that are transferable to their new vocations.
Okoye stands in at 6-foot-6 and weighs 304 pounds.
He also has been timed in the 40-yard dash with a pretty quick 4.78, has a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-5 broad jump. San Francisco officials hope to turn him into a defensive lineman.
Grigson and the Colts’ defensive coaching staff are gearing up to work with Adongo, who is 6-5 and 257-pounds, and tutor him into becoming a rush outside linebacker.
They realize that it won’t be an easy task. He just recently learned how to dress the part.
“Well right now he’s the 90th man on the roster. He’s a guy we brought in that has a very raw skill set, obviously. We watched him throw a football for the first time and in about a nano-second we said ‘You know he’s not a quarterback.’ He had never thrown a football before. But once you start seeing him move around with those long limbs and you see the type of competitor and really the traits he has as a human being and as an athlete, you have something to work with,” he explained.
“You basically have a lump of clay for these coaches to work with. It’s not like he came from a small school, or he came from a guy that hadn’t played since high school. We’re talking about a guy that hasn’t been able to learn any bad habits because he’s never played. Anything he’s doing, I told them, that’s a bad habit, he must have learned it from you guys [the Colts coaching staff].”
Indianapolis linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald understands his task.
“He’s going to be a little bit on a different learning program. We’ll do the best. We’ll spend extra time with him like that. But we understand that when we’re talking to the veterans and the guys that have been here it’s going to be well over his head. We can’t change gears for him right now. We can just try to pull him aside, do some extra things with him, coach him hard as best we can,” FitzGerald said.