After taking a look at Tez Doolittle's resume, I was not impressed and assumed that the Colts would not be taking a chance on him even as an undrafted free agent.
However, after speaking with Mark Murphy at AUTigers.com, I got a better sense for who the man was behind the numbers. Doolittle lost his freshman season to injury, then played in only 18 games his next three seasons, and entered his senior season looking for an opportunity at some real playing time.
He tore his Achilles tendon in training camp in 2007 and was facing the prospect of never playing another down of football.
However, he finished his career at Auburn as a sixth-year senior after being granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA, playing in 12 games for the Tigers and actually breaking into the starting lineup. For his career, he appeared in 30 games with 44 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, five passes defended, and one blocked kick.
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But the fact that he was able to go from perennial backup to out of football, to valued starter through perseverance in six seasons with Auburn shows his determination and why it would be unwise to count him out now that he's so close.
He had a chance to capture some of his passion for the game and everything he had to go through in rehab during the 2008 season and that footage speaks volumes about Doolittle as a player and a person.
But, with his lack of experience, Doolittle is currently fighting an uphill battle to get selected in this year's draft. He certainly put up a good fight during Auburn's Pro Day on March 10th, posting a 40 time of 4.92 seconds — which would have ranked him third among Combine defensive tackles, had he been invited — and showed off his athletic ability in front of scouts and general managers.
At 6-feet-2 and around 290 pounds, he doesn't fit the mold for most teams at the position, but is just about the right size for the Colts and has the kind of speed and ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage that they covet.
With a quarter of his tackles coming behind the line and still posting two sacks in limited action, he certainly has the burst to fly past the offensive line and make his way to the ball carrier before they have a chance to get started.
He is currently not ranked among the top 25 players at his position, or as one of the top 355 prospects overall, so, as was said, he is certainly facing long odds to be drafted this weekend.
As a sixth-year senior, he's also going to turn 25 in December, which is a very advanced age for a prospect. However, he does use his hands well and has the kind of nose for the ball that cannot be taught.
Matt Cassel didn't start a game in college. Brandon Jacobs was buried in the Auburn depth chart behind Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown before transferring to Southern Illinois. Priest Holmes backed up Ricky Williams, then a number of running backs in Baltimore before finding his niche in Kansas City.
Just because it took him six seasons to crack the top of the depth chart at Auburn does not mean he cannot do it with the Colts. It will just take effort and determination, and of course, performance.
Doolittle has his workout numbers going for him, but he has the red flags of age, injury, and lack of experience working against him. He has a number of skills and abilities that are a good fit for Indianapolis, which is why they are interested in him, but he may have to work his way into the lineup as an undrafted free agent, proving what he can do in camp.
The Colts and John Teerlinck have a long and distinguished history of turned prospects (and projects) into productive players at the highest level in their system, so it's not outside the realm of possibility for him to become the next Ed Johnson, Darrell Reid, or Eric Foster.
Bill Polian and his staff have just as a stellar a track record of identifying and signing key free agents after the draft. Once he has found a home in Indianapolis, the rest is up to Doolittle to show what he can do.
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