The long, sad offseason is over.
“It doesn’t seem like too long ago that the season was ending. But now, it’s a fresh start and I think everyone is really excited about it,” says Colts marketing assistant Chelsea Durham. “And what better way than to celebrate the draft and the first round and the 15th pick?”
On Thursday night, the first night of the NFL Draft, the Colts hosted a draft party at Brother’s Bar and Grill downtown Indianapolis.
“It signifies the start of football season,” Durham says. “The offseason is officially over. Things are back in full swing. It follows the schedule coming out, so people are excited and they’re looking forward to the season.”
Colts superfan Brock Easley is one of those people.
“Each year at this time, it’s exciting. I feel like a kid during Christmas,” he says.
Easley is also a Colts season ticket member for the first time. While he attends many games each season, this year – he’s going to all of them. And there’s one thing he’s most excited about.
“Getting ready to take back the AFC South.”
A few of the guys preparing to do that, tight end Jack Doyle and cornerback Darius Butler, were at the draft party to meet fans and sign autographs.
They also looked back on their own draft experience.
For Doyle, it was watching the 2013 NFL Draft from home surrounded by those near and dear to him.
“Casie, who was my girlfriend at the time (and is now his wife), my parents, and a couple of my closest buddies from school and from growing up – a very small crowd,” he says. “It was fun to share the experience with them.”
Even though much of that experience was watching and waiting.
“I remember that it’s a long weekend,” he says. “I knew I was possibly round four through seven. I remember sitting down watching the whole thing Saturday, ending up not getting drafted. It’s a crazy process afterwards where you’ve got teams calling you trying to sign you as an undrafted. I was just excited to be wanted and signed with Tennessee and it was a lot of fun.”
The Titans released him before the 2013 season began and the Colts picked him up. He just signed a new contract as the star tight end.
Butler remembers waiting while watching the 2009 NFL Draft with family, friends, and some of his coaches at a party at a sports bar in Florida. But there’s one moment in particular he’ll never forget.
“I remember telling myself, ‘I’m not going to cry. I’m going to be cool. I’m going to be happy.’ But as soon as I got the call (in the second round), I just started hugging my brothers and bawling. I was kind of overcome with emotion. Just everybody being in the room that had something to do with it, it was special.”
Colts alumni players Marlin Jackson and Rick DeMulling were also in attendance, hanging out with fans, watching the draft, and reminiscing.
Former guard Rick DeMulling can still feel the emotions he went through watching the 2001 NFL Draft unfold.
“I didn’t think I was going to get drafted the first day, so I got a call the second round from San Francisco,” he says. “So I’m heart racing, jacked up, and they’re like, ‘We’re thinking about taking you in maybe the seventh round, but if you don’t get picked, will you come here as a free agent?’ And I was like, ‘Call me when it’s time to discuss that.’”
He didn’t have to worry about it. DeMulling was drafted by the Colts in the seventh round.
“I didn’t have cell service, so I saw my name before I got a call. I had a party, all my friends went crazy. I was right next to my dad, we embraced, teared up, that was a great memory.”
Marlin Jackson was one of the top ranked cornerbacks going into the 2005 NFL Draft.
“I was told I was going to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens as well as the Green Bay Packers. So, I was expecting to go to one of those teams,” he says. “The time came and passed and neither one of them took me, so I was kind of getting worried that I might not be selected in the first round.”
There was one other team he knew had interest in him.
“I actually thought I would go to the New England Patriots before the Colts.”
But the Colts claimed Jackson at number 29 – and the rest is history.
In 2006, Jackson intercepted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game, sending the Colts to the Super Bowl, where they beat the Chicago Bears and brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Indianapolis.
What would have happened if Marlin Jackson had been drafted by the Patriots instead?
“My history would be a lot different,” he says. “I can’t even imagine that.”
And that’s why we love the NFL Draft.
Football is a team game – but you never know how one player can change the fate of your franchise and the history of your team.
On Friday night, the Colts turned the page on a new chapter in their history.
And it started with the 15th pick.