By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — How surprising was the Indianapolis Colts' signing of professional rugby star Daniel Adongo on Thursday?
Let's ask the man himself.
"It came as a shock," Adongo said two days later after reporting to training camp at Anderson University. "I really appreciate the chance that I've got. Going forward, I want to be the best I can be for the team. That is what it's about here. That's the culture being built in the boys."
Both sides are accepting risk in this transaction, and both are undertaking this adventure with eyes wide open.
Adongo, a 23-year-old native of Kenya, was playing in the Southern Kings of Super 15 Rugby — the sport's highest professional level. He put that promising career on pause to chase down a longshot opportunity at the NFL.
Some of Adongo's skills — size (6-foot-5, 257 pounds), speed and his physical nature — should translate readily to American football. But he's such a raw prospect, he needs to be tutored in the proper way to put on his pads.
"It's a test, and it's a process for him just like it is for us," defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "We'll see where he is and evaluate him each and every day. We know he doesn't know much (about the game). I think yesterday or two days ago was the first time he put a helmet on. So it's a little bit odd and different, but we'll see what he has."
The Colts contacted Adongo through email. And much of his knowledge of the NFL comes from watching playoff games and the Super Bowl on television in South Africa, where his rugby team was located.
He'll try out as an outside linebacker, and he might be the most extreme example of general manager Ryan Grigson's willingness to seek out talent anywhere at any time.
But that doesn't mean Adongo has no chance to succeed.
"There's just a lot of guys out there," linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald said. "The more we (the NFL) can spread our wings with international games and things of that nature to get people involved, because there is interest overseas, both over the pond in Europe and over Australia, New Zealand way. There's a lot of guys out there. I think this could maybe kick something off. You go to more foreign guys on our team. I think it's pretty cool."
So does Adongo.
He likely has little shot at making the active 53-man roster out of training camp. But a spot on the practice squad would give him a year of seasoning and maybe lead to more down the line.
Not bad for a player who never had stepped foot on American soil before signing with the Colts.
"It's not really chasing a dream," Adongo said. "I want to make it a reality."