The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Sports

August 14, 2013

'Mr. Irrelevant' quickly becomes necessary for Colts

ANDERSON, Ind. — Justice Cunningham took a lingering look around Lucas Oil Stadium early Sunday afternoon and briefly wondered what he'd gotten himself into.

The Indianapolis Colts announced 66,181 tickets were distributed for the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills, and as the players came out to warm up just before the 1:30 p.m. kickoff Cunningham was soaking in the sights.

He'd seen plenty of big crowds before as a member of college football's most prestigious league, the Southeastern Conference, during his days at South Carolina. But he still allowed the enormity of the NFL to wash over him for just a moment.

By the time the music started playing over the public address system, the rookie tight end had relaxed. What was coming next was just football, and he was back in his element.

But the day held one final surprise.

When the Indianapolis offense took possession after the opening kickoff, Cunningham was sent into the huddle with the starters for the first play from scrimmage.

"I was kind of caught off guard because we had another play set up (that did not call for two tight ends)," he said following Wednesday's morning walkthrough at Anderson University. "But when they called it, it was a play that we've run 100 times. So it came to me easily."

Cunningham's start Sunday came as a result of a foot injury to second-year tight end Dwayne Allen. He ended up playing in spurts throughout the game and even made a bit of history.

His 17-yard reception from third-string quarterback Chandler Harnish is believed to be the first completion from one "Mr. Irrelevant" — the moniker handed to the final selection each year in the NFL draft — to another.

Harnish was the final pick by the Colts in 2012, and Cunningham was the team's last selection in April. During their brief time together, the two players already have formed a common bond.

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