In Indianapolis, where old school NBA centers still roam the earth, (albeit somewhat more humbly than a few months ago), another dinosaur of professional sports is clawing its way back from the bygone era of leather helmets, peach basket goals, and La Bohème.
Alas, it is not a mask-less hockey goalie or an untainted baseball record, but a strange entity known as the fullback. As far as we can tell, this “fullback” thing comes from the Old English ful bæc, meaning roughly he who keeps the third wide receiver on the bench. Largely unknown for decades in the Circle City, the fullback resurfaced in 2013, ready to run into people for money, and occasionally go out for a pass (or something like that).
Facetiousness aside, with reserve linebacker Mario Harvey’s recent switch to lead blocker (fulbæc), the Colts now are one of four teams this summer with three fullbacks on their 90-man roster (18 teams have two or more, a likely indication that several teams intend to keep a fullback this year).
Harvey ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and notched 27 bench reps at his pro day in 2011, but he was seen as a raw talent on defense. Could his strength and athleticism make him the guy opening up holes for the running backs in 2014? Well… “I think he adds a physical presence,” said Running Backs Coach David Walker. “We’ve utilized him at times as a situational player in terms of a short yardage and goal line fullback.
“What he’s showing us, he may be able to be a full-time fullback, so it’s given us a lot of depth this particular offseason and he’s finding a role on the team, which is good. So it’s going to make us a better football team if he can continue to grow.”
Phrases like “finding a role” tell us that, like any team with more than one fullback on the camp roster, the position likely is wide open, and Harvey is just another guy in the mix. The fact that the team is giving him a chance at the position probably says more about last year’s starter, Stanley Havili, than it does about the former Marshall linebacker.
Whatever the case, Harvey wisely has been very positive about the change. “I’m in a room with a great group of guys, leaders,” he said of meeting with the running backs every day. “You’ve got Trent, Ahmad, Boom (Dan Herron), Chris Rainey, Stanley – he helps me out a lot. So there’s a lot of guys that got that edge, I’m just giving them a little oomph to it.”
The battle for the fullback spot (please tell me there will only be one) currently is between Harvey (6-0, 264), UDFA rookie Cameron White (6-2, 252), and Havili (6-0, 243). Whatever your feelings are on utilizing a lead blocker, one of these players should come in handy in goal line and short yardage situations. It will be interesting to see how the position is used as Pep Hamilton’s offense progresses.
The Daniel Adongo Quandary
Speaking of changing positions and such, we all know it’s terribly early to tell whether the physically gifted Daniel Adongo, who came to America to become a football player, is ready to contribute on the field. Nevertheless, people are already curious about his progression, and there were plenty of questions along those lines yesterday.
There certainly is a learning curve, changing to a completely different sport, and there are safety concerns for a guy who’s never been on the gridiron potentially being blindsided out there.
So is Adongo ready? “Well, we’re trying to find out,” Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky told a reporter yesterday. “I think across the board, when you’re out there doing the team function stuff and we’re getting through it, the first couple of phases were a little bit odd. For him, he’s just learning his technique and fundamentals and vision, sightlines. But for right now, he’s getting into the mix and feeling it out more than anything.”
Yes, yes, there’s much to learn, and it’s only June, but will he play, at least in the preseason? According to Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon, yes. “Yeah, a bunch of reps, live reps where he’s going to actually have to physically tackle somebody,” McMahon said. “He’s never tackled a person in a game. I have two games last year and he didn’t get a tackle yet. Once he gets one, then all of a sudden, it’s ‘Okay, that’s how you do it.’ Once he loses a guy downfield on punt returns but then recovers, finds a way to recover, it’s just he’s got to play. He’ll be fine.”
Perhaps, then, this preseason – or at least in training camp contact drills, we’ll get to see if this guy is a football player yet. The Colts certainly need some help at outside linebacker, even if only on special teams.
All Quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.