Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 14, 2014

BREMER: Colts embrace underdog stories

Kokomo Tribune

---- — The list reads like a casting call for Hollywood’s next underdog football team flick.

There’s a 6-foot-9, 320-pound offensive tackle who has spent the past three years jumping from the Ultimate Indoor Football League to the Indoor Football League to the Arena Football League.

There’s an inside linebacker who was previously released after training camp by a division rival and spent the next three years playing in the Canadian Football League. Another player at his position spent two years serving in the U.S. Army before being discovered and signed out of a regional scouting combine.

Yet another inside linebacker was born in the Congo before becoming a CFL all-star last year in Winnipeg.

And they don’t even represent the most unlikely stories.

How about a long snapper who was cut twice in the NFL and twice more in the United Football League before making his first appearance in the Pro Bowl last season? Or a rising international rugby star born in Kenya who in the span of about four months put on an American football helmet for the first time and made his regular-season NFL debut?

It certainly is an interesting cast of characters Colts general manager Ryan Grigson has assembled in Indianapolis.

And he added 25 more over the weekend.

There’s a good chance you’re familiar with Ohio State offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, Mississippi wide receiver Donte Moncrief, Ball State defensive end Jonathan Newsome, Western Kentucky linebacker Andrew Jackson and Georgia State offensive lineman Ulrick John by now. They’re the five players Grigson selected in the NFL draft on Friday and Saturday.

But what about Seth Lobato, a 6-foot-6 quarterback from Northern Colorado who began his college career as a walk-on basketball player at Colorado?

Or Erik Swoope, a 6-5 tight end who played basketball for four years at Miami, Fla., but has never played a down of organized football at any level?

They’re two of the 20 undrafted free agents the Colts announced deals with on Sunday and Monday. The most recent addition is Loucheiz Purifoy, a 6-1 cornerback from Florida who was signed on Monday afternoon.

One year ago, Purifoy was projected as a potential first-round draft pick. He struggled on and off the field, however, capped by a drug-related brush with the law last month, and went undrafted after passing up his final year of college eligibility.

All 25 new additions will be joined at rookie mini-camp by Jack Breckner (the 6-9 offensive tackle) and Henoc Muamba (who was born in the Congo) beginning Friday.

The first-year players can take heart in the fact they are no greater underdogs than Jerrell Freeman (cut by the Titans in 2008 before playing three years in the CFL), Josh McNary (a former army lieutenant), Matt Overton (a Pro Bowl long snapper) or Daniel Adongo (a Kenya-born former rugby player) — four members of the Colts’ AFC South championship roster last season.

Grigson’s approach to talent acquisition might not always follow conventional wisdom. But it’s hard to quibble with his track record for unearthing hidden gems.

Who knows? If Indianapolis ever fulfills its Super Bowl dream under Grigson’s watch, somebody might even want to make a movie about it.

George Bremer is a sportswriter for The Herald Bulletin. He covers the Colts for CNHI newspapers.