INDIANAPOLIS – For rookies in the NFL, making the transition to life in professional football has its bumps in the road.
“Starting things new is always hard,” explains Colts rookie quarterback Sam Ehlinger, “and it’s a lot harder if you don’t know anybody.”
But that wasn’t the case for Ehlinger and his new teammate Kylen Granson, who was also his old teammate at Westlake High School in Texas.
“You wanna talk about a young star, man,” smiles Granson pointing to Ehlinger, “Everyone knew who this guy was. Come on, man. You knew who he is. This is the guy.”
Kylen’s not lying. Ehlinger won the Texas Associated Press Player of the year award in 2015, teamming with Granson for a memorable run to the state championship game.
“The story between Kylen and Sam,” remembers Westlake head coach Todd Dodge, “was playing against the Allen eagles. They had a 57-game win streak going. (A defender) hit Sam on the chin as he let the ball go, put a perfect strike on him, and Kylen took it to the house from about 70 yards out.”
Dynamic plays like that enabled Ehlinger to continue his football career at Texas, while Granson’s path led him through Rice and SMU before the 2021 NFL Draft reunited the pair once again. The Colts first took Granson in the fourth round, and then came the sixth round.
“We were like celebrating still, then my aunt was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Sam!’ I looked, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, we picked Sam!’ Then (the TV broadcast) cut to him and I’m like, “Oh my god, Sam’s coming to the same place, what are the odds?’ We were freaking out. We had a double party all at once.”
“Two days after the draft, we were coming up from Austin for rookie minicamp,” adds Ehlinger. “I remember seeing Kylen walk up and I was like, ‘Alright, here we go.'”
The duo may be gone from Texas, but Texas is still cheering them on.
“My wife, she ordered us some Colts gear,” says Dodge. “When they play every Sunday, I’ve got my Colts gear on, she’s got her number four jersey for Sam. He’s wearing number four again just like he did here at Westlake.”
Just like the old days, only 1,000 miles north. As Ehlinger and Granson hope to make their marks in the NFL, they do so with a secure friendship forged in the past — under the Friday Night Lights in Austin, TX.
“I’m very thankful that I have him on the team,” says Granson. “It made my life coming here a lot easier. I had a built-in friend I knew very well and I could depend on.”
“To be able to have a familiar face,” continues Ehlinger, “a relationship that we were able to start building in high school, made the transition so much easier. Now I’m so thankful for it. I’m definitely pinching myself. not only that we’re both in the NFL and played high school together and had great memories, but that we have the relationship that we have and are able to continue to build on it.”