Colclough proved his worth

Growing up in Sumter, S.C., isn't exactly like growing up in Compton, Calif. But for young Ricardo Colclough, many of the same distractions were there. <br><br> "The neighborhood that I grew up in had a lot of trouble and stuff going on that I could have got into," said Colclough. "Me playing sports helped me stay away from all of that.

"I just started playing sports when I was seven or eight. The stuff started getting bad and people started trying to influence me to do certain things I did not want to do. So playing sports helped me stay away from all of that."

That led him down his current life path, one that led to him being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the NFL Draft.

The Steelers liked Colclough (pronounced COKE-lee) so much, it didn't bother them he hadn't played his college ball at one of the football factories such as Miami (Fla.), USC or LSU. Colclough toiled in relative anonymity at tiny Tusculum College in Tennessee.

Sure, he was a finalist for the Harlan Hill Trophy, NCAA Division II's version of the Heisman Trophy, but it was still Division II.

It wasn't until Colclough was invited to the Senior Bowl that a lot of people began to take notice. Colclough struggled in the early days of practice, but got better as the week wore on. And in the game, he was one of the best players on the field, earning defensive MVP honors for the North squad after making five tackles and breaking up a pair of passes.

The Steelers were so impressed, they traded a fourth round pick to move up six spots in the second round when he was still available.

"We had Ricardo Colclough rated high enough that we could justify doing that," said Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert. "As we have always said, if there is a guy up there that we want, we are going to try to go get him and we would much rather do that then to reach back for somebody that is not rated as high. He was rated high on our board. We felt that if we did not make a move for him, we may not get him and there was going to be a drop off until the next level at that position. His value was worth it. We were able to strike a deal with him and Indianapolis and get it done."

The 5-11, 180-pound Ricardo Colclough recorded 59 tackles (37 solo) with 24 passes defended including 11 interceptions this season as he was named to numerous Division II All-America teams. In addition to his defensive prowess, he averaged 29.1 yards per kick return with 2 touchdowns and 14.2 yards per punt return with 1 touchdown.

Colclough first caught the eyes of NFL scouts at spring practices last year when he ran a 4.49 40-yard sprint and showed a 36-inch vertical leap. Colclough said he has been timed even faster in the 40 since that time.

"I ran in the 4.4s for the scouts last spring and then a few weeks later, the coaches timed me at 4.26," Colclough said.

New defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau hadn't heard of Tusculum before this year's draft. But he certainly isn't brushing off Colclough because of his small-school pedigree.

"He ran in the 4.4s for us when we went down there to work him out," said LeBeau. "We had him in here and we interviewed him. We were all impressed with his mannerisms, his intelligence, and we think he's going to be a strong asset for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"One thing we liked about him (at the Senior Bowl) was that he got better each day, he seemed to gain confidence, progress in production and got better. . He is from a smaller conference, but they play football. It's still played on a 100-yard field that's 53 1/3-feet wide. He has made a lot of plays. We did like the way he competed down there with the "major" athletes."

Colclough said he will take the same approach into the NFL.

"I'm a very confident player," Colclough said. "When I step onto the field, I'm ready for anything. I am not scared of anything out there. I feel like I can take away my half of the field."

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