The Colts signed underrated free-agent inside linebacker Justin Shirk Thursday and waived defensive end Camaron Beard.
Shirk, 6-0 and 243, had a standout NCAA Division II career at Bloomsburg (Pa.), where he made 392 tackles, including 45 for loss, 18 sacks, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception.
The roster move is about taking a look at a new prospect after deciding another doesn’t fit into the team’s plans. Hence, the team released Beard, 6-5 and 290, a rookie from Indianapolis who had signed with the Colts on June 2. He played in 41 college games at Cincinnati.
Shirk was regarded as a sleeper NFL prospect after playing so well at the small college level, but he will be a long shot to earn a roster spot. The Colts have three established inside linebackers in D’Qwell Jackson, Jerrell Freeman and Nate Irving as well as second-year pro Henoc Muamba.
Shirk earned conference honors in each of his four college seasons. As a senior team captain, he made 120 tackles, including 21.5 for loss, with 11 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception. He was named 2014 Associated Press Second Team Little All-America, 2014 Super Region 1 Defensive Player of the Year and was a 2014 Cliff Harris Award finalist (awarded to the small college Defensive Player of the Year).
He was also a standout collegian in track and field. Prior to Bloomsburg, Shirk attended Oklahoma, where as a 2010 freshman he finished fourth overall in the Big 12 in the javelin throw. After transferring to Bloomsburg, he participated in track and field for one season and won the 2012 Division II National Championship in the javelin throw.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.