(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- He was the one that got away. James Mungro, who was released by the Lions.
"Well, I saw some highlights and he did have a good game. Back in fall camp; Geez, I'm going to have to take a second to recall it; it came down to a couple of players. One player, (Lamont Warren) who's hurt now, we kept because of the experience factor. Third downs, the nickle-type experience. James wansn't quite ready to play at that time. It was a very, very difficult decision because somewhere around mid-season, we felt that he would quite possibly be ready to play. So we put him on waivers and one team claimed him. We were hoping to get him back, but one team claimed him and that's all it takes."
After leading the Lions in rushing in the preseason, Detroit tried to slip Mungro through waivers and then re-sign him to the practice squad. The Colts ruined that strategy and now the Syracuse standout is paying dividends for the Indianapolis brass. In his first appearance for the Colts, Mungro carried 16 times for 60 yards and caught six passes for 33 yards in a loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Colts head coach Tony Dungy expressed optimism that with more carries Mungro would pay dividends. "James did a good job," Dungy said. "If he gets a chance to continue to run, I'm sure he'll run better. He's a tough guy."
Dungy was right. In last week's win over heavily favored Philadelphia, Mungro was the difference. The rookie rushed for 114 yards in relief of injured backs Edgerrin James and Ricky Williams (no, not that Ricky Williams) to pace the Colts to the upset.
"James isn't the strongest guy or the fastest guy, he just gets the job done," said defensive end Dwight Freeney, who played collegiate ball with Mungro at Syracuse. "He's a great runner who has a natural feel for it."
Mungro himself was not surprised that he was signed after being released by Detroit, or at his success thus far. "I'm the type of person who has confidence in himself," the rookie stated. "I'm not cocky, but I have confidence."
BUILDING THROUGH THE DRAFT
The genius of Lions director of player personnel Bill Tobin really shows through when you look at the two drafts he's put together for Detroit. 2001's draft yielded three starters (Tackle Jeff Backus, center Dominic Raiola and defensive tackle Shaun Rogers), a backup wide receiver (Scotty Anderson), a backup quarterback Mike McMahon and linebacker Jason Glenn will be facing his former team as a member of the New York Jets.
The 2002 draft yielded starting quarterback Joey Harrington, pass rushing specialist Kalimba Edwards, reserve corner Andre Goodman, tight end John Owens, starting corner Chris Cash, reserves at tackle (Victor Rogers) and tight end (Matt Murphy) and reserve running back Luke Staley (currently on I.R.). Mungro was an undrafted free-agent.
The previous regimes 2000 draft wasn't bad either. As a parting gift before leaving for Pittsburgh, much maligned Ron Hughes selected Stockar McDougle (starting right tackle) and Barrett Green (starting outside linebacker). Rueben Droughns (now in Denver), Todd Franz (now in Green Bay) and Alfonso Boone, (now in Chicago), also were selected in 2000.