Opportunity Knocks for Gary Brackett

Training camp fodder. Warm bodies for Terre Haute. Those of you who know me realize just how much I detest those words -- and believe me, I do. I can not stand hearing people say that when they refer to the undrafted collegiate free agents that are signed to the team once the draft is complete.

I guess it doesn't really matter how we look at it anyway. What matters is how head coach Tony Dungy and team President Bill Polian look at it. That's what counts.

Before last year's mini camp, Dungy showed the players a highlight video from the 2003 season. And there was one common thread throughout that video. Each and every play was made by an undrafted collegiate free agent. There were game-saving plays and plays that turned the game in the Colts' favor. They were all made by players who some considered "just another warm body" for training camp.

Fortunately, both Dungy and Polian see something in these guys or I doubt that they would have them even participate in camp.

The track record speaks for itself. Dominic Rhodes, Brad Pyatt, Josh Thomas, Aaron Moorehead, Gary Brackett -- players who went undrafted, but were given the opportunity by this organization and made the most of it.

Being born and raised in the Garden State, I am partial to #58, former Rutgers Scarlet Knight, Gary Brackett.

I remember scouring the list of undrafted free agents after the 2003 draft. My eyes lit up when I saw that a player from Rutgers was signed by the Colts!

Despite all the toxic waste, rivers that catch on fire, and nuclear fish that glow in the dark, I am loyal to the state of my birth. My older brother attended RU back in the sixties and he took my younger brother and me to quite a few football games in New Brunswick.

I read up as much as I could on Brackett, a collegiate walk-on who later became team MVP as a junior and was the team's leading tackler in his senior season. I tracked him down and he agreed to join us in studio one Sunday evening before his initial training camp.

It was quite evident that here was a guy who overcame the odds, got everything that he could out of his natural abilities, and welcomed all challenges.

Brackett was actually a very good player on a pretty bad football team, competing in the Big East Conference against solid, strong competition every Saturday autumn afternoon.

His talent and desire did not go unnoticed by Polian or Dungy.

And now, two seasons later, Gary Brackett has the opportunity to be the starting middle linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts -- an opportunity that has been earned. This "warm body for training camp", a relative unknown (except to us Garden Staters, of course), has the chance show that he can be a starter in this Colts defense.

Will he be out there in the starting lineup on Sunday evening, September 11th as the Colts open up the 2005 season in Baltimore on national television? And if he is, will this defense be good enough with him playing that crucial position to win this team a championship?

Good questions. But Gary Brackett has faced bigger challenges than this. The man has suffered the loss of both parents and a brother within the last two years.

I fully expect Gary Brackett to answer this challenge the way that he has answered them his whole life -- with courage, conviction, and heart. I expect him to take advantage of this opportunity.

I expect nothing less out of #58.

Email me at cima19@aol.com. I always welcome your thoughts, questions, and concerns.

You can listen to Jersey Cimasko talk about the Colts and sports from 6-8 pm om Sunday nights. Click this link to go to his page at WIBC and bookmark it as you can listen to his broadcast through WIBC's website.

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