The Colts prospect interviews are rolling along as we approach the NFL Draft. Today’s player interview is Wisconsin Linebacker Ryan Connelly. The Colts could use depth in their linebacker core and Connelly would be a great addition on and off the field for this Colts’ team.
As usual, the interview will be towards the bottom of the page. Connelly interviewed exclusively with Stampede Blue to talk about walking on at Wisconsin, earning a Team Captaincy in 2018, and how he is being underrated in this draft process.
6’2” 242 pounds
40 Time: 4.67 / 10-yard split: 1.62 / Bench Reps: 17 Reps / Vertical Jump: 34.5 inches / Broad Jump: 118 inches / 3-Cone: 7.09 seconds
251 total tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles in his career.
Fit with the Colts:
The Colts appear set with their starting linebackers as Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker both enter another year on the team. They need to work on adding quality depth behind them, though. When either player missed time last year, the drop off in play was rather noticeable. Adding a player like Connelly would help in a variety of ways. First, he can replace Najee Goode as a core special teamer. In addition to providing help there, he can also serve as a solid backup who can step in and play whenever needed. A hard working locker room player who fits the team well and can be had on Day 3? Seems like a great fit to me.
Connelly’s ability to get into the backfield and make plays immediately pops. He makes a ton of plays in the opponent’s backfield.
Connelly brings some upside as a blitzer, as well. He’s constantly in the backfield and has an innate ability to get by pass-protecting running backs.
Connelly is just a really solid linebacker that gives 100% effort on every single play.
ZH: So, you walked on at Wisconsin after a successful high school career. What went into that decision to walk on there?
RC: Really that was my only opportunity to play any sort of Division I football. That was something I really wanted to do, so it was like my only chance and I took it.
ZH: I saw that you played QB in high school. How difficult was the transition from high school QB to Wisconsin linebacker?
RC: It was... a little bit rough at first, transitioning. Not having played defense in a while, just tackling was foreign to me at first. I knew I wasn’t going to be a Division I quarterback so I put on some weight to get a little bigger, and I think that kind of helped ease the transition a little bit.
ZH: Before we get to the on the field stuff, I read that you were a member of NFF Hampshire Honor Society and All Academic Big Ten player. Were your off the field academics and activities important to you in college?
RC: Yes sir. Being a walk on, I had to get into school here first before I could join the team, because that is really how it worked back then. Yeah, though, it has been a big focus, but obviously football has always been my first love.
ZH: How great did it feel to go from former walk on to eventually being a player who earned an invite to the Combine?
RC: It was pretty exciting and surreal. I remember growing up watching it on NFL Network every year, and getting that invitation and knowing that I would have a chance to go there to do the thing I’ve been watching on TV was pretty cool.
ZH: You were a Team Captain this past season at Wisconsin. What did it mean to receive that honor?
RC: It was huge, man, especially because it was voted on by my peers and then Coach Chryst ultimately chose. It was quite the honor to be recognized that way. I was pretty happy with that.
ZH: You dealt with injuries this past season in college. How are you feeling now, though, with all that recovery?
RC: Everything is going well. Finally being able to lift is a good feeling. This past season, I wasn’t able to squat or do any major lifts because of my core muscle/sports hernia. Now that it is fixed, I am finally able to get back into the weight room like I’m used to and get back to full strength.
ZH: Looking at your film, you make a ton of plays in the backfield and force tackles for a loss. What is the key to making plays like that?
RC: I think it is two things. One is the confidence to trust what you see and the other is being prepared and having an understanding of what is about to happen. When you have confidence and trust what you see, that is when you can play fast and that is when you can get in the backfield and get TFL’s and whatnot.
ZH: Linebackers are often called the quarterback of a defense. Would you describe yourself as that?
RC: Sure, man. My responsibility at Wisconsin was me and TJ, as my other linebacker, was that we always would set the front, give different coverage communication calls, and we were definitely the center of everything in terms of being the directors of the defense.
ZH: Instincts are always talked about as being important for linebackers. In your words though, what are instincts for a linebacker?
RC: I would say that it is the ability to feel the play before it happens. I don’t know if whether that comes down to film study or just having done it before or what it is. It’s really just something you feel about to happen and then you react on it. In order to then execute on the instinct, you have to have confidence to be able to do it.
ZH: So you went to a big school, were super-productive, loved by your coaches and teammates, and put up excellent numbers at the combine yet I rarely see your name in mock drafts and draft circles. Do you feel like you are being underrated right now?
RC: That’s kind of been my whole career. I’ve always kind of flown under the radar. Honestly, I’m just ready to get to a team and then be able to show that I belong there wherever I land. So I’m just excited to get this process over with and get back to normal football again.
ZH: Who in the NFL do you compare yourself to/model your game after?
RC: I love watching Luke Kuechly. You can just tell how cerebral he is on the field and that is something that I want to get to. You can tell he knows the play before it is even happening and I really want to get to that point.
ZH: Last question is Colts-related. The Colts have very good linebackers in Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker. What would you bring to that linebacker group if this team drafts you? On and off the field, what would the Colts be getting?
RC: I think the biggest thing is just another backer that they can depend on. At Wisconsin, I was always where I was supposed to be, I was always doing my responsibility, and if you needed a play in a big moment, then you could depend on me. I think they could just have added depth and someone they could count on if there were an injury an injury to occur at all.