Change is nothing new for Dayo Odeyingbo on the football field.
The Indianapolis Colts’ second-round draft pick played outside linebacker — and wide receiver — for his first three years of high school. And when arrived at Vanderbilt, he moved all over the defensive line.
But this offseason brought a new challenge for the 6-foot-6, 276-pound edge rusher — not playing anywhere at all.
As the Colts began a three-day rookie mini-camp Friday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Odeyingbo was reduced to a spectator. As has been widely reported, he tore his Achilles’ tendon in late January while preparing for the Senior Bowl and is about three months into rehab.
There have been suggestions this could serve as something of a redshirt season as the 21-year-old returns to full strength. While he didn’t completely rule out that notion, Odeyingbo made it clear during a video conference with local media that’s not his primary objective.
“The goal is to be back playing this year, so that’s what I’m working towards,” he said. “And that’ll play out how it plays out.”
This is the most serious injury Odeyingbo has dealt with in his career. He suffered a broken hand in college but was able to play through the rehab.
Part of his acclimation period now will be handling the frustration of watching his teammates compete while he awaits medical clearance. He’s talked with former Vanderbilt teammates about what to expect, and they’ve helped him remain focused and motivated.
The process will shift to Indianapolis as soon as NFL rules allow, and Odeyingbo is well aware the challenge requires a delicate balance.
“Obviously, everybody wants to get back as fast as possible,” he said. “But, obviously, you have to deal with these injuries the right way. You don’t want to push anything too hard and kind of like make it worse or mess up your future or set you back. So, obviously, I’m working hard to get back as fast as possible, but I’m definitely being careful with the whole situation.”
Odeyingbo suspected immediately the injury might be severe. He knew it could affect his draft status, but he was confident from conversations with teams and his agent he would land somewhere on the draft’s second day.
The Colts were something of a surprise destination because they hadn’t been particularly active in speaking with him throughout the process, but he’s happy to land on a defense he feels will be a good fit for his relentless motor.
The wait to get on the field will be just another hurdle to clear along the way.
“Whenever I’m back on the field, that’s when I’m gonna be able to help this team and contribute,” Odeyingbo said. “And I’m excited to get there.”
CLASS IN SESSION
Seventh-round pick Will Fries proved to be a quick study at Penn State, making at least one start at every offensive line position except center.
That versatility helped draw Indianapolis’ attention during the draft process, and it’s likely to foreshadow the early part of his pro career. A utility role similar to the one played for years by Joe Haeg could be Fries’ best fit.
As competition for a roster spot begins alongside one of the league’s better offensive lines, Fries is a willing and eager student.
“There are a ton of veteran guys in the room that have played a ton of football, and any time you can be around guys that have played that many snaps at the highest level, you’re going to learn something,” he said. “I look forward to getting to learn from those guys, picking up some tricks of the trade from anyone. Just looking forward to coming in, competing and just learning from those guys.”
Undrafted running back Deon Jackson estimates his agent heard from 25 or more teams last weekend who wanted to add him to the roster.
The fact the former Duke rusher chose the Colts was something of a surprise given the team’s loaded running back room. Jonathan Taylor returns after a 1,000-yard rookie season. Marlon Mack is back in the fold after recovering from an Achilles’ tendon injury. Nyheim Hines remains a versatile option in the rushing and passing games, and Jordan Wilkins is a valuable reserve.
It won’t be an easy group to crack, but Jackson remains excited about the fit.
“Just going through the meeting process and having Zoom meetings and everything like that in the predraft process, I felt like that I developed a good relationship with the coaches,” Jackson said. “I watch Indy a lot. I mean, I like their offense. I like how they used their running backs. I like their running scheme. I know that they have a great O-line. I just felt like it was definitely an organization I wanted to be a part of.”