Colts’ Dayo Odeyingbo: ‘Excited to get out there and let the hurricane loose’

Indy Blitz

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – NOVEMBER 23: Defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo #10 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrates after making a sack against the East Tennessee State Buccaneers during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – Dayo Odeyingbo’s eyes lit up, and a smile began creeping across his face.

Yes, he’s heard the nickname.

Hurricane Dayo.

It’s the description that popped into Morocco Brown’s mind as the Indianapolis Colts’ director of college scouting kept pouring over video of a defensive end out of Vanderbilt. The kid was relentless, disruptive, a force to be reckoned with.

“He earned the nickname,’’ Brown said. “Some kids, you pop the tape on and it might not even be 10 plays or so, and you just kind of drop the remote. There were some things he was doing that are so unique, not just trait-wise but he showed an ability to kind of dominate the game in stretches.

“As you’re watching the kid, it just came into my head. It paints a clearer picture for everyone to see.’’

Hurricane Dayo.

“I mean, he was literally like a tropical storm,’’ Brown continued. “Hurricane Dayo is coming to Indy and we’re glad to have him here.’’

Modesty aside, Odeyingbo embraces the moniker.

“I definitely see where the name comes from,’’ he said Friday on a Zoom conference call during a break from the Colts’ three-day rookie minicamp. “I definitely would like to live up to it. I think it’s a solid way to describe how I play, that disruption I bring to the game.

“I like the name. I hope it sticks. I’m excited to get out there and let the hurricane loose.’’

In 44 games and 29 starts at Vanderbilt, Odeyingbo piled up 125 tackles, including 31 for a loss. He added 12 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.

The Colts looked at the total package – 6-6, 276 pounds – and were enthralled at the potential disruptive force Odeyingbo could be when tossed into a defense along with All-Pro tackle DeForest Buckner and first-round pick Kwity Paye.

Again, no argument from Odeyingbo. He and Paye, another disruptive force, this one out of Michigan, met for the first time at rookie minicamp.

“We’re excited for the future,’’ Odeyingbo said. “I think we both know what we can do together, the kind of disruption and the havoc we can wreak on NFL quarterbacks.

“I’m excited to get back out there with him and the rest of the d-line and the rest of the defense and hopefully get to win the championship. That’s the goal.’’

And that’s one of the reasons owner Jim Irsay was downright giddy when his franchise selected defensive linemen with its first two picks for just the second time in the common draft era (since 1967). The only other occasion was in 2002 when Indy opted for end Dwight Freeney in round 1 and tackle Larry Triplett in round 2.

“I have never in my 50 years sat there in a 24-hour period and got two edge rushers like this back-to-back,’’ Irsay said. “It’s remarkable as it is landing Carson (Wentz in a February trade with Philadelphia) and those things falling together at the right time.

“These guys are heavyweights. They’re not outside linebackers that you don’t know what they’re going to do at the point and can they bull rush and do they have a speed rush? These guys are strong, heavyweight guys with great athletic ability and speed. We’re a completely different football team with these rushers and Carson Wentz at quarterback. That changes everything.’’

The only issue: when might Hurricane Dayo actually make landfall in Indy?

As much as the Colts were captivated by Odeyingbo’s skills, they knew he likely wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season. He tore an Achilles tendon in late January while working out in California for the Senior Bowl. It’s not unusual for rehab to take at least nine months.

His involvement in rookie minicamp will be limited to classroom work, looking on as the other rookies go through position work on the practice field and bonding with his new teammates.

Odeyingbo initially began his rehab in California before returning to Vanderbilt. Now, he’ll work with the Colts’ medical staff once he’s allowed to return to Indy, which is after Vanderbilt’s graduation ceremonies (May 13-14).

There’s no guarantee when Odeyingbo will be cleared to return to the field – the next step in his rehab involves jogging and running – but he’s not considering 2021 to be a redshirt season with the Colts.

“The goal is to be back playing this year, so that’s what I’m working towards,’’ he said. “That’ll play out how it plays out.’’

The key figures to be balancing an aggressive approach to rehab with the required patience.

“Obviously everybody wants to get back as fast as possible,’’ he said, “but obviously you have to deal with these injuries the right way and don’t want to push anything too hard and kind of like make it worse or mess up your first year or set you back.

“I’m working hard to get back as fast as possible, but I’m definitely being careful with the whole process.’’

During the pre-draft process, some interested teams actually mentioned the possibility of Odeyingbo missing his rookie season entirely.

“A lot of teams had that mentality, which is fine,’’ he said. “Obviously I want to be back as soon as possible. If the doctors don’t feel that’s the best idea, then I’m more than ready to take time off and just work on my craft and be back for next year.

“Whenever I’m back on the field, that’s when I’m going to be able to help this team and contribute.’’

The Colts, he added, realize they aren’t making a “one-year investment. It’s an investment for an entire career. I think that’s the mentality they had when they took that risk on me and chose me.’’

The Colts considered Odeyingbo a first-round talent who slid into round 2 because of the injury.

General manager Chris Ballard took everything into account, and felt selecting an intriguing pass-rush threat on the mend from an Achilles injury “was worth the risk.’’

“This kid is a unique, unique talent,’’ he said. “We would have considered him in the first round if he hadn’t got injured and I think a lot of other teams would have. To be honest with you, I was kind of sweating it out at where we were picking if we were going to be able to get him because we had kind of targeted him.

“There’s no timeline on when he’s going to be ready. We’ll let the young man get healthy and when he’s ready to go, he’ll go.’’

That’s when the Colts hope the impact of Hurricane Dayo is felt.

“Morocco gave him a really good nickname and called him the Human Hurricane,’’ Ballard said. “He’s all of 6-5 and 280 pounds with really long arms and really big upside as a rusher. He’s as disruptive of a defensive player as we saw on tape this past fall.’’

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