INDIANAPOLIS – The tone of it sounded quite a bit different from what the Colts were saying after drafting Jacob Eason in 2020.
Instead, the selection of Sam Ehlinger had the Colts lauding the character of their new QB, and being a firm believer in the type of person they are getting from Texas.
“The one thing I will tell you about Sam, the guy, whatever ‘it’ is, he has it,” Chris Ballard said after the Colts took Ehlinger with the 218th overall pick.
“He has been highly productive at Texas and he’s won a lot of games as the starting quarterback. He’s been a heck of a college football player and we think he has a good chance to be a good pro player.”
Ehlinger did put up some impressive numbers at Texas.
The Friday Night Lights story of him playing at storied Westlake High School and then at Texas had Ehlinger starting 43 games, throwing for 11,436 yards, 94 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. He also ran for 1,907 yards and 33 touchdowns.
In University of Texas football history, Ehlinger is one of just 7 players to ever be a two-time captain.
Whereas describing a player like Eason leads the Colts to first praise the physical gifts, it’s the makeup of Ehlinger that gets the initial mention.
“First, just the character,” Frank Reich says of Ehlinger. “More than anything, I think Sam is just a winner. I think he’s a winner, I think he has those intangible traits that it takes at this position to be a good decision-maker. I think he has the traits of what it takes to have poise under pressure. No moment is too big.
“The other thing that really jumps off the tape when you watch him is his ability to extend plays. I think he is very dynamic in that regard. He doesn’t have – when you look at his 40 time or any of those numbers, you’re not going to be wowed, but when you watch the tape you see a guy who is very allusive, very good vision, very good balance when he is moving in the pocket and a real knack to make plays when he is moving, so I think that’s what sticks out more than anything.”
When asked about his goals for Year 1, Ehlinger definitely says the right things, with the ideal plan for the Colts having Jacob Eason as the backup to Carson Wentz, and the Texas rookie in the QB3 spot.
“I think first off, just learning as much as possible,” Ehlinger says. “Learning what it takes to be successful at the next level. Obviously, going into my rookie year there are going to be a lot of learning curves and getting great coaching and learning as much as possible is my main objective and doing whatever it takes to help the team be successful. At the end of the day, I am going to do whatever it takes to make everybody in the organization better and that’s my objective.”
There are some chatter among fans on if Ehlinger’s background running the ball could be used in a specific package.
It seems a little premature to commit to that as a rookie. Although Ballard did say Reich ‘will be creative’ in using a possible Ehlinger specific package. As Reich points out though, Ehlinger’s true ability with his legs is more in his knack for extending plays and sensing where a rush is coming from. That would be less of a designed, scripted run package with his 4.8 40-yard dash not running away from many in the NFL.
Unfortunately, the Colts’ first in-person chance to work with Ehlinger did not happen at the team’s rookie minicamp earlier this month.
Tragically, Ehlinger’s stay in Indy was short earlier this month as he left rookie minicamp early because of the unexpected death of his brother, Jake.
Tragedy has hit the Ehlinger family before with their dad passing back in 2013.
After spending more than a week at home with his family, Ehlinger has returned to the Colts for this two-week in-person work. Watching Ehlinger have to go through such an awful event further showed the Colts the type of person they gush about in what he stands for on and off the field.
After Ehlinger was drafted, and before the death of his brother, he commented on the adversity he’s already faced.
“I think adversity creates endurance, endurance creates character and character creates hope,” the 22-year-old said. “That’s something that I’ve built myself on. Whatever that adversity may be, I’m ready for it and I think my mentality going into is, just try to make the team better, whatever that looks like. I know it might not be a starting position right away, but I understand that this is going to be my job now and I’m ready to complete my job to the utmost ability and helping the team in whatever way possible to win. That’s the ultimate goal at the end of the day. This isn’t an individual sport. This is a team sport and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win.”