Curtis Painter just wanted a chance to play in the NFL.
He never dreamed he’d get to do it his home state or alongside a three-time league MVP.
Colts president Bill Polian ended Painter’s agonizing wait Sunday in the sixth round, making Painter a surprise pick at No. 201 overall that will allow him to compete in front of all those fans who watched him play in Vincennes and West Lafayette.
“I’m excited,” Painter said after waiting more than 24 hours to hear his name called. “It’s a great organization, it’s close to home, and it’s an opportunity to come in and learn behind a couple of great quarterbacks.”
Clearly, Painter is not expected to compete with Peyton Manning for the starting job, and Indianapolis has been content with Jim Sorgi as the backup. The Colts hadn’t even drafted a quarterback since Sorgi was taken in the sixth round in 2004. And because Manning has never missed a start in 11 NFL seasons, the Colts have traditionally kept only two quarterbacks on the roster.
Now Sorgi has a new challenge.
The younger, stronger-armed Painter will try to beat out the veteran who owns a Super Bowl ring and ran the offense last year at training camp when Manning was recovering from an infected bursa sac in his knee. But the Colts figured Painter was the best player still available, much like the 2008 draft when they took Michigan runner Mike Hart in the sixth round.
And Painter is talented. Some even billed him as a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate last year, and he was expected to vie for several school records at an institution nicknamed the “Cradle of Quarterbacks.”
But Painter and his teammates struggled in Joe Tiller’s final season at Purdue, and Painter’s draft stock tumbled after throwing for 2,400 yards, 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 59.9 percent of his passes. One problem was a shoulder injury that kept him out of two games.
The other was a significant dropoff from Painter’s 2006 and 2007 totals when he threw for more than 3,800 yards.
But Polian looked beyond the numbers.
Picking Painter wasn’t Polian’s only surprise Sunday.
In the seventh round, he traded a sixth-round pick in 2010 to Philadelphia to get an extra pick. Then he chose punter-kicker Pat McAfee, who attended West Virginia, the same school ex-Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt attended.
The Colts needed a punter after losing Hunter Smith in free agency to Washington. McAfee, however, is regarded as a stronger placekicker than punter, and the Colts still have Adam Vinatieri, who is considered the best clutch kicker in NFL history.
Yet Polian spent most of the weekend plugging holes.
A day after making running back Donald Brown the first Connecticut player ever chosen in the first round and adding Southern Cal defensive tackle Fili Moala to help stop the run, Polian opened Sunday’s rounds by taking Auburn cornerback Jerraud Powers.
The Colts needed depth because one starter, Marlin Jackson, is still recovering from season-ending knee surgery, and free agent Keiwan Ratliff, a key backup, recently signed with Pittsburgh. Polian also added a receiver, which became necessary following the release of Marvin Harrison in February.
The Colts took Brigham Young’s Austin Collie, who caught 106 passes and led the Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,583 yards receiving last season.
“You want to get picked by a team that will be the best fit, and I think that’s what I got,” Collie said. “It’s a blessing to go in this spot and get picked by a team you grew up watching. Who wouldn’t want to go there? They have a fantastic quarterback, a winning program and know what it takes to get it done.”
Nine picks later, with Indy’s second fourth-rounder, Polian took 319-pound defensive tackle Terrance Taylor. He is the heaviest defensive player the Colts have had since switching to Tony Dungy’s Tampa-2 scheme in 2002, giving the Colts an imposing new combination.
That’s when Polian changed gears and kept Painter in the state he has always called home.
“I don’t think you can ask for a better situation other than getting in and learning from those guys,” Painter said. “It’s really similar to when I came to Purdue and I was behind Kyle Orton, who was a senior. I hope to do the same thing here.”
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