Colts GM Chris Ballard has regularly stated that his philosophy is that you build teams through the draft. That makes this time of year critical to the Colts’ long term success. So in the lead up to this year’s draft, I wanted to do something to honor some of the meaningful draft picks that the Colts have made in their time in Indianapolis. These players have helped to tell the story of the Colts franchise we love. Every day leading up to the draft, we’ll drop a story about a different player from Indianapolis Colts draft history.
Today we are talking about legendary Colts pass rusher, Dwight Freeney. Selected 11th overall out of Syracuse in the 2002 NFL Draft, Freeney hit the NFL and made his presence known right away. He amassed 9 sacks and set a rookie record for forced fumbles with 9, on his way to finishing second in the race for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
That was hardly the end of his reign of terror over opposing quarterbacks. Over his 11 year career in a Colts uniform, Freeney had 10 or more sacks in 7 of his seasons, and forced at least one fumble in every season.
He was a freak athlete, whose speed and burst were a thing of beauty. His bend around the edge had left tackles terrified of giving him the outside edge. However, what made Freeney so special was his trademark spin move. When he would speed rush a tackle to the outside and they would make the mistake of sliding too quickly out with him, he would hit them with the inside spin and be right in the quarterback’s lap.
When Robert Mathis joined the team the next year, the Colts set in place their formula for such a dominant team. They could score points with ease on the back of an offense composed of multiple future hall of famers, and with a lead in hand, they would turn loose their pass rush to close out games.
Like Reggie Wayne, Freeney attempted to stick with the Colts through their transition into the Andrew Luck era, providing invaluable veteran leadership during a tough time in team history. Unfortunately, while Reggie had one of his best years, the transition into Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defense and the conversion from defensive end to outside linebacker did not go smoothly for Freeney who struggled with the position change as well as with injury.
Despite the team moving on from Freeney after the 2012 season, Freeney went on to be a valuable team member and contributor in 5 more seasons, spending time with the Chargers, Cardinals, Falcons, Seahawks, and Lions before finally retiring at a Colt on April 19, 2018.
A class act, and a dominant defender in an era where the Colts didn’t really focus on that side of the ball much, Freeney was truly enjoyable to watch. His 7 Pro Bowls and 4 All-Pros are a testament to the kind of player he was, and Colts fans are lucky to have gotten to watch him go to work.
What is your greatest Freeney memory?