Guys like Daniel Adongo are supposed to make NFL headlines in the offseason, then quickly fade away once the actual season starts. After all, Adongo merely seemed like one of those novelty stories who never pans out when he signed with the Indianapolis Colts this past summer. However, the 6’6″, 270-pound outside linebacker is actually proving to have some substance after making his debut for the Colts last weekend.
Adongo played an important role on special teams in the Colts’ 42-28 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He fielded one short kick, made some big blocks and most importantly, looked like he actually belonged on a football field. The last part was something that just wasn’t the case in the summer.
As Indianapolis defensive lineman Cory Redding recalls, “The guy couldn’t even put (football) pants on six months ago, knew nothing about football, and look at where he is now.” Redding added. “He’s giving the O-line fits. He’s a very aggressive player, and I can’t wait to see him line up, where they put him.”
Head coach Chuck Pagano is another member of the Colts who can definitely see a difference in Adongo. “I think back to his very first workout, when we first brought him in after a 17-hour flight to Atlanta and a connection up here … to try out, from what we saw to right now, it’s night and day,” he said. “The guy is a smart guy, we know from a physical standpoint he’s very, very athletic. He can run, he’s big, he’s strong and he’s a tireless worker.”
The traits that Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson saw in Adongo were the primary reason why he was signed fresh off the plane in late July. But Grigson knew that Adongo had a long way to go since he was strictly a rugby player prior to the summer.
The Nairobi native played for the Kenyan Under-18 and Under-21 national teams, before signing professionally with a South African rugby union team. Adongo eventually worked his way up to the Super Rugby league, which is the game’s highest form in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. And while he had yet to become a star, Adongo did display enough athleticism to convince the Colts to give him a try.
Indianapolis’ original plan was for him to spend a year on the practice squad, then make a run at the official 53-man roster next season. But Adongo had different plans, spending off-days and late hours at the Colts’ facility watching game film and working out. In less than half a year, he put on 30 pounds of bulk so that he was better suited for the outside linebacker position. Adongo also absorbed hours of game film to prepare himself for the slim chance that he might see an NFL field before 2014.
Thanks to injuries, Adongo got that chance and did nothing to dissuade coaches from putting him out there next week, and the week after. Assuming his development continues at this rapid pace, it’s very likely that Daniel Adongo will be playing a prominent role not just on special teams, but also on defense as a pass rusher next year.