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Friday, July 11, 2014

Hart slides to Colts in sixth round

Sunday, April 27, 2008

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike Hart has heard the critics before.

They always suggested he was too small and too slow to compete at the next level. He always proved them wrong.

Now Michigan's career rushing leader must start all over, hoping to show the NFL world that the Indianapolis Colts got a bargain by selecting him in the sixth round Sunday.

"I've always been scrappy," he said after being taken 202nd overall. "I'll have to look at this like I did my freshman year. I'm ready to get going and play football again."

Most of the predraft rankings showed that while Hart's stock was dropping, he never anticipated waiting around this long.

Hart was even hoping a team would take a chance with him on Day 1 of the NFL draft. When that didn't happen, he woke up early Sunday morning and started watching the draft on television. After seeing two more rounds go by without hearing his name called, Hart took his niece on a bike ride near his home in upstate New York.

The break, at least, broke the monotony and anxiety that had been mounting for more than 24 hours.

By Round 6, Hart was back in front of the television set -- in time to take the phone call from the Indianapolis Colts.

"Pun intended, this was a heart pick by everyone in our room," team president Bill Polian joked. "Every one who saw him play said they'd love to have him on our team. He ran a bad 40, but everything else is in line with the other backs we've had here. We're thrilled to have Mike, and he was a popular pick in our room."

Hart seems a perfect fit for Indy.

With Pro Bowl running back Joseph Addai established as the starter, Hart comes to Indianapolis fighting for a backup job. Last year, the Colts relied on Kenton Keith as Addai's primary backup. Keith was solid in that role, but was recently arrested in Indianapolis for allegedly refusing to leave the parking lot of a nightclub when police were trying to clear it. He pleaded not guilty to criminal trespassing last week.

Hart's resume is also stronger than that of Keith, who spent the first part of his professional career in the Canadian Football League.

Hart became the first Wolverines rusher to ever top 5,000 yards in his career, finishing with a record 5,040. More impressive was a streak that included 1,015 consecutive carries without a fumble, and his 41 touchdowns is third on school's all-time list.

So how did he slide so far down on draft day?

Hart measured in at 5-foot-9, 202 pounds -- short by NFL standards -- and ran the 40 in a pedestrian 4.76 seconds at February's NFL combine.

It was enough to make some teams knock him down their draft boards even if it sounded like a rehash to Hart.

"I never questioned myself," he said. "There's nothing you can do because it's out of my hands at that point.l I was just hoping I got picked up somewhere and I could go and try to prove myself again."

He'll certainly get that chance in Indy and could have some quality linemen to help clear holes in his rookie draft class, too.

The Colts spent their only pick Saturday on Arizona State center Mike Pollak, widely regarded as one of the two best centers in the draft. They took him in the second round, 59th overall, then changed the usual script by selecting two more centers -- Wake Forest's Steve Justice and Buffalo's Jamey Richard -- in rounds six and seven.

With Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday entrenched at the position, it's possible the Colts could move all three to new positions. Polian said Pollak is expected to compete to be the starting right guard, a job that opened up when Jake Scott signed as a free agent with Tennessee.

Richard, at 6-foot-5 and 301 pounds, may be better suited at tackle.

"They're all athletic guys who can move," coach Tony Dungy said. "I think they'll still be considered undersized guys compared to to the rest of the league, but we think they'll be very, very good players."

Taking players in bunches was a theme for the Colts.

They also selected linebackers Philip Wheeler and Marcus Howard in the third and fifth rounds, respectively, and tight ends Jacob Tamme and Tom Santi in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively. Indy took speedy receiver Pierre Garcon, who played at Division III power Mount Union, in the sixth round. Garcon ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds but may be a long-term project because he hasn't competed against players of such a high skill level.

Tamme believes he'll fit in nicely with the Colts offense.

"I've definitely watched some film on Dallas (Clark) the last couple of seasons, and I've kind of modeled my game after him," Tamme said. "That's a great offense, so I'm really excited to be a part of it."

As is Hart, who intends to show 31 other teams they made a mistake by not selecting him earlier.

"It's incredible to be there," he said. "You know they have such a great offense, and to be playing next to guy like Peyton (Manning) and with a guy like Marvin (Harrison), who I grew up watching when he played at Syracuse, I'm just happy they picked me."



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