Colts sixth-round pick Antoine Bethea led his college team in tackles for three years, and as a pre-draft visitor to Indianapolis earlier this year, he was confident that he could have a successful career at the pro level. Bethea's knack for always being around the ball, and his experience in the Cover 2 defensive scheme were a big draw for the Colts.
"That’s kind of what attracted us to him on his college tape, and it’s continuing," said head coach Tony Dungy.
Despite an injury setback during training camp, Bethea has impressed with every opportunity when he's stepped onto the field. As a sixth-round pick, he's far from being a bubble player as the Colts firm up their 53-man roster this weekend.
“Antoine is coming along. He has been a real eye-catcher in practice and in summer school and all of the way through, and it’s continued on," Dungy said.
One of Bethea's trademarks on the football field has been his ability to see through the chaos that explodes on the football field. And unlike many other rookies, his methodical view of football allows him to have the vision to understand all that is going on around him in an NFL world where speed and vicious impacts often overwhelms rookies.
"What he’s doing is exactly what we saw on tape," Dungy said. "He played center field at Howard, he made a ton of plays, he ran to the ball and he was a guy that looked like the best guy on tape in most of the games he was in.
“Probably the only surprise is that he’s able to do it at this level."
The Colts undoubtedly were prepared to invest more development time in Bethea than he's needed. Despite the fact that he missed about half of the team's workouts in Terre Haute due to a knee injury, he's been showing a field presence and ability to adjust to the speed of the game that flies in the face of logic.
Bethea could challenge incumbent Mike Doss if the veteran continues to be have trouble with injuries. Doss had offseason shoulder surgery and missed the team's minicamp in May. Then a calf injury at the end of July has forced him to miss the team's entire slate of preseason action. Meanwhile, Bethea has looked very good while Doss has been trying to get healthy.
"He’s gotten in the games and been very productive," Dungy said. "He’s been, I won’t say a pleasant surprise because we expected that, but he’s done really well. He hasn’t slipped up at all.”