INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Grigson might never have another draft class quite like this one.
After scouring the nation’s best college football players, the Colts’ general manager used his first three picks on a German-born pass rusher, an interior lineman who played college football in the Midwest and started high school in Idaho and a center whose father has spent nearly four decades working for the Saudi royal family.
Soon, Indianapolis will find out whether they’re as big a hit on the field, too.
In terms of their off-the-field and overall stories, they are all very unique human beings and some of their stories are amazing what they’ve overcome, Grigson said after making the last pick of the weekend – 264-pound tight end Justice Cunningham. The first two guys off the board were just amazing. The other ones, whether it’s injury stuff or lack of size, these guys have all been resilient, and that’s what these guys are really all about and that’s what we’re all about.
Grigson chose college defensive end Bjoern Werner with Indianapolis’ first-round pick, No. 24 overall, with visions of turning him into an outside linebacker.
Then Grigson plugged more holes along an offensive line that allowed 41 sacks and dozens more hits on quarterback Andrew Luck.
Even though the Colts signed two potential starters in free agency – right tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard Donald Thomas – Grigson took Hugh Thornton, an offensive lineman from Illinois, in the third round and center Khaled Holmes in the fourth.
Thornton, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard, grew up in Idaho, endured his parents’ divorce and then moved to Ohio after his mother and sister were slain in Jamaica as he slept in a nearby room. After all that, Thornton is staying close to his roots.
I’ve got a lot of family from Ohio, so I’ll have a lot of my support system at games, Thornton said. I’m an overcomer. I’ve overcome a lot of adversity ,and I’m going to give nothing but the best to the organization.
Holmes, Indianapolis’ fourth-round pick at No. 121 overall, might have the strangest story.
The 6-foot 3, 302-pound center grew up listening to his mother reading classics from Homer and Plato instead of the usual childhood favorites. He played the cello and basketball when he was deemed too big to play Pop Warner football, and his family has a distinguished football legacy.
Holmes’ father was a defensive lineman at Michigan under Bo Schembechler and turned down a chance to play in the NFL so he could become a business manager for the Saudi royal family. Holmes’ brother, Alex, played two years in the NFL after winning back-to-back national championships at Southern California in 2003 and 2004, and his sister just happens to be married to Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
Now, the newest Southern California grad is developing a mobile app as part of his master’s program, and for the first time since his freshman season in high school, he won’t be snapping balls to Matt Barkley.
Grigson later traded a fourth-round pick in 2014 to move back into the fifth round to take the 329-pound Montori Hughes, who was booted off Tennessee’s team after multiple off-the-field incidents and resurrected his career at Tennessee-Martin.
The Colts closed out the draft by taking safety John Boyett of Oregon, who played in just one game last season because of injuries to both knees; 5-foot-7 running back Kerwynn Williams, who led Utah State to a bowl game last season; and Cunningham, who initially was called the wrong name during the Mr. Irrelevant ceremony.
So when the three-day rookie minicamp convenes May 10, this draft class will have plenty to discuss. The only question is how everyone will perform.