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May 12, 2013

Colts Notebook: Cunningham’s catch completes camp

INDIANAPOLIS — Justice Cunningham enjoyed a solid three-day rookie mini-camp with the Indianapolis Colts this weekend. So perhaps it’s fitting the reigning “Mr. Irrelevant,” as the final player selected in last month’s NFL draft, got the last word on Sunday.

Cunningham, who made a name for himself primarily as a blocker at South Carolina, lasted until the 254th overall pick in part because many teams had questions about his ability to contribute in the passing game.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said on draft night he believed Cunningham possessed an innate ability to get open and a nose for the end zone that would serve him well as a receiver. Despite a couple of scattered drops, Cunningham spent much of the weekend proving Grigson’s tape study correct.

As Indianapolis lined up for its final play Sunday afternoon, head coach Chuck Pagano decided to work on his “Detroit scenario.” The Colts completed an unlikely come-from-behind victory against the Lions in Detroit last season when then-rookie quarterback Andrew Luck threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Donnie Avery as time expired.

Using that scenario as a template, Pagano told the offense — led by tryout quarterback Tanner Marsh of Arkansas Tech — that it had four seconds remaining and one play to score a game-winning touchdown.

As Marsh dropped back, Cunningham popped open in the middle of the end zone. The quarterback lofted a perfect pass into Cunningham’s hands, and the tight end held on to set off an impromptu celebration.

All of the offensive players in camp rushed toward the end zone to jump with and high-five Cunningham.

“The highlight of the camp, a big pass play for a touchdown,” Pagano said. “It was our Detroit scenario. We try and do all of these mock-win situations. So four seconds on the clock, fourth down and you’ve got to have a touchdown to get a walk-off home run, if you will. So a pretty good way to end the camp.”

Pagano was asked if a bargain had been struck with the players, similar to Pat McAfee’s successful field goal attempt that ended training camp last summer at Anderson University.

“It wasn’t like an Anderson deal,” he said with a laugh. “We were done. We had enough work in. So that was it.”

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