INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– One year removed from being the Colts’ top draft pick, center Ryan Kelly admits that the transition from the University of Alabama to starting on an NFL offensive line as a rookie and protecting the league’s highest-paid quarterback has been, at times, overwhelming.
“It’s been a whirlwind since getting here,” Kelly told Indy Sports Central’s Chris Hagan. “First of all, getting the call that I was going to be drafted to Indianapolis was incredible, really where I wanted to play and where I wanted to be. Then just getting here, meeting the guys, becoming more comfortable with the team, so I think that was one of the biggest changes and things I had to get used to. And just going through the season, figuring out the do’s and don’ts and how to prepare my body to get in the best shape possible. Learned a lot of things, things I’d like to do better, and I think that’s one of the biggest, most important factors going into the offseason.”
In February of last year, the West Chester, Ohio native was preparing to visit Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. Now, he’s using the time to reflect and regroup in preparation for his second season with the team.
“It’s nice to take a step back and kind of decompress,” Kelly said. “The season’s very long. I think it’s good to have equal balance, kind of taking some time off and getting the body back right and going back to a mental state where I feel confident, and ready for a new season.”
Kelly, who won the national championship with the Crimson Tide, admits that the increased level of competition in the NFL is something that not even playing in the SEC could have prepared him for.
“In college, you’re playing against a league guy maybe once every three or four weeks,” Kelly said. “As opposed to the NFL, you’re playing against them every single play, every single game. The factors that come into winning and losing are so minute in the NFL because everyone is an elite athlete. I think learning how to be more consistent is one of the things I want to do.”
As the 23-year-old center prepares for a second season protecting Luck, who recently underwent shoulder surgery to repair injuries that lingered since the 2015 season, he believes the offensive line will capitalize on the challenges they faced throughout an 8-8 campaign.
“We were a young offensive line,” Kelly said. “Castonzo’s only in his sixth year in the NFL and we look at him as the old guy, but realistically he’s a younger guy. We had a lot of different guys starting throughout the year at different positions. I think that it goes to show how versatile we can be.”
“From where we were versus Detroit to where we were against Jacksonville the last week of the season, and some of the games in between where I think we played well. Consistency is always a hard thing to accomplish and as an offensive lineman, you have to protect the quarterback 100 percent of the time, the defensive line only has to be right one time and they get praised. That’s kind of the nature of the business that we’re in.”