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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 14, 2020
He might not have been drafted, but Carter O’Donnell is still headed to the National Football League.
While the University of Alberta Golden Bears product didn’t have his name called by the time the final round of the NFL’s COVID-19-inspired virtual draft wrapped up on Saturday, the end result was the same. The six-foot-six, 315-pound offensive tackle signed an undrafted free-agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts, including a reported $25,000 signing bonus.
“It’s a good chunk of change in his pocket that he’ll get to do what he wants with and it’s something that when you’re coming out of university, you’re not used to having a lot of spare cash on you,” said Spruce Grove’s Mark Korte, a former teammate of O’Donnell’s with the Bears and current member of the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Redblacks. “And as much as the money, itself, is great, so is the commitment it shows from the team. They only have a limited amount that they can give out in signing bonuses on those contracts, so for them to commit a substantial amount to him, I think that’s a pretty big vote of confidence.
“The money, itself, is great. What it means, as well, is big too.”
But the big payoff was seeing his former teammate and current off-season training partner – any year outside of a global pandemic, that is – get to sign an NFL deal.
“It’s awesome. It’s been so much fun to watch, really since December, and see what’s been going on with him,” said Korte. “It’s really good to see him break through and get a contract. Hopefully, he’s going to get a shot to prove himself in a training camp and hopefully be on an NFL roster whenever the season comes around.”
Getting a foot in the NFL door is a battle in itself, as Korte can attest after having held a pro day in front of representatives from pro teams on both sides of the border under the Foote Field Dome in 2018, before going fourth overall to Ottawa a few weeks later.
“It’s not easy to come by (an NFL shot), so to see him get an opportunity with a contract and get a good signing bonus shows they have a really good commitment to him,” Korte said. “Indianapolis is going to want to give him a good shot when he does get to camp.
“I think he’s going into a really good situation. I think Indianapolis will be a good spot for him, they have a good offensive line he can learn from. I think he’s set up really well.”
The Colts, who didn’t have a pick in the first or final rounds, only drafted one offensive lineman this year in Ball State’s Danny Pinter.
“Indianapolis didn’t have a seventh-round pick and I think they really wanted him,” said Golden Bears head coach Chris Morris. “They were contacting everybody throughout the draft and I know he was really close to being drafted, and I think the signing bonus he got is a pretty clear indication that they’re serious about him. The signing bonus he got is comparable to a kid getting drafted in the sixth or seventh round.
“All you can ask for is wherever he’s going, that they’re going to take him seriously and it’s not just going to be, ‘Oh, here’s the Canadian kid,’ and kind of dismiss him. And I think their O-line coach and their head coach really like him, they see the athleticism in him, they see what he can do and I think he’s going to get a fair shot.”
While things worked out in the end, there will always be a question of what might have happened in the draft if O’Donnell would have had a chance to perform at his own pro day. Originally scheduled for March 19 in front of eight NFL clubs and all nine CFL clubs, it was cancelled just days into the coronavirus shutdown.
“I think if more people would have seen him move live, that would have helped his cause and potentially things could have gone better for him,” Morris said. “But I think things went really well for him. I can’t think of a better situation than going to a place (like Indianapolis).
“It’s really nice to see good things happen to good people who worked real hard and deserve it.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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