WR rookie Mike Strachan gave up his Olympic dreams to play for Colts camp

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WESTFIELD – Mike Strachan was aiming for the Tokyo Olympics.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, before the Olympics were pushed back to 2020, and long before the Colts picked him in the NFL Draft, Strachan was on a mission to run the 400m for his Bahamas though. -loved in Tokyo.

He had a real chance.

“I was hitting good times, I was on pace, ready and ready to score the times I needed for the Olympic Trials,” said Strachan. “A coach from the Bahamas called me and said, ‘Hey, if you hit this time you can make the team.'”

The coach told Strachan he needed to cross the 45-second mark.

Strachan hit a personal best 46.8 seconds in a small competition early in the calendar. If he had continued to improve throughout the college track season, Strachan believed he could have beaten the mark.

Then COVID-19 struck, the MEC canceled its 2020 track season, the Olympics were postponed for a year, and Strachan had to give up his dream in favor of another.

“Football is my No. 1 sport,” Strachan said. “I love football with all my heart. Football comes first.

Colts wide receiver Mike Strachan catches a pass during practice at Colts training camp on Tuesday August 3, 2021 at Grand Park in Westfield.

Mike Strachan drafted despite college season canceled

Football ended up waiting.

The COVID-19 pandemic has struck again. The NCAA canceled the Division II season, taking Strachan’s final year to Charleston. For a normal Division II athlete, a player with less physical gifts, the cancellation could have been catastrophic for a player with NFL hopes.

But the NFL already had its eyes on Strachan, a 6-5, 225-pound freak of nature with an 82-inch wingspan and sprinter speed who had dominated the MEC competition at 78 catches, 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns during the 2019 season. Faced with an opportunity to make it to the NFL, Strachan ditched everything else and focused on turning heads on Pro Day in West Virginia.

“When it was time for me to prepare for the Combine, to prepare for the draft, to come here and play for this team, that’s when I realized I had to put the track aside and get ready for football, ”Strachan said. .

The work paid off a lot.

“Here’s a guy from a little school who hasn’t played and he’s in phenomenal shape,” Colts scout Chad Henry said in May. “I mean, he’s as fit as anyone in this training. He blows up the tests and then when they go to hit the roads it was clear this guy had broken his butt.

The Colts recovered Strachan in the seventh round of the draft.

At the time, they intended to turn a raw prospect into a player polite enough to compete for a berth in the NFL.

Then they got their hands on Strachan on the training ground.

“We thought, coming from a small school, that he would be grosser than he is,” said Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady. “He’s actually more detail-oriented in how he sets up routes, and (wide receiver coach Mike) Groh has done a good job teaching him, helping him figure out what (defensive back ) go do.”

Mike Strachan gets off to a good start at Colts training camp

The result of all of this hard work was a stunning start to training camp.

Already likely placed in his top four receiving spots, Indianapolis has assembled a competitive and deep squad to fight at No.5 on a list that could keep up to six, given Ashton Dulin’s role as the best. team shooter on special teams.

By far, Strachan has produced the most highlights so far, and he has done so consistently, especially in 1v1 drills, where his size and speed made the Charleston product a devastating clash. for the Colts’ cornerbacks. Indianapolis sent their No.1 cornerback, veteran Xavier Rhodes, to cover Strachan on Friday, and although Rhodes won the first rep, Strachan shot the highlight of the practice on the second, using his body and arm. left to protect Rhodes as he reached out his right hand and caught the ball, kicking in bounds for the take into account.

“It’s a mental thing, to go out and just have that doggy mentality,” Strachan said. “Playing like a big guy is just wanting the ball and playing games for your team.”

Initially, Strachan made most of his plays in 1 on 1 drills; he only caught two 11-on-11 assists in the first four days of training camp.

Slowly but surely, its production increased. The rookie suffered a few crashes, including one on an excellent pitch from struggling Sam Ehlinger on Friday, but he came back and caught up with the next, bouncing off the mistake.

The Colts always expected him to face a learning curve. Strachan hasn’t been able to play 11-on-11 football for two years, and Frank Reich’s offense is admittedly much more complex than what Strachan learned in Charleston, especially in the details and adjustments he expects. wide receiver position.

“He just continued to develop when it comes to learning offense,” Brady said. “You can tell, when he knows what he’s doing, he looks really good, and then, just, we set up a lot, play that he’s a little fuzzy on, he plays a little lower. It will just increase with more reps.

The more Strachan learns, the harder it becomes to cover.

“With his size, he’s definitely a weapon,” Brady said. “It creates offsets with little corners. Even in turns of his size, he is able to use his body, be it his positioning, his length, his ability to stretch. We’re going to need him.

“God is good for the Bahamas”

The Bahamas have swept the 400 meters in Tokyo for the past two days.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo successfully defended the gold medal she won in the women’s 400m; Steven Gardiner, tall and powerful like Strachan, became the first Bahamian man to win an individual gold in track and field by blazing the Tokyo track in 43.85 seconds.

From his room in Westfield, Strachan felt his heart swell with pride.

“It was just a blessing,” Strachan said. “God is good for us, good for the Bahamas, and I love to see the people of the Bahamas succeed. This is my little country.”

Strachan does not regret having given up on his Olympic dream.

He is chasing another dream for his country. His father, Jerome Strachan, played football for Bethune-Cookman as another 6-5 wide receiver, and he taught his son the game, put him in the Bahamian football league as a child. When he was in high school, Strachan moved to Lynchburg, Virginia to play Liberty Christian, setting him on the path that led him to Charleston and ultimately to the NFL.

The Olympics are not the only place an athlete can play for their country.

According to Pro Football Reference, only three Bahamian-born men have ever played in the NFL: Broncos defensive end Ed Smith in the ’70s, Lions defensive back Jocelyn Borgella in the’ 90s and Devard Darling, a wide receiver who spent five years in the NFL with the Ravens and Chiefs in a career that ended in 2008.

Strachan knows how much Gardiner and Miller-Uibo’s gold medals have meant for his country, which was battered by Hurricane Dorian in 2020 and hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He would like to give his country the same inspiration on the football field.

“This has been so much on us for a long time,” Strachan said. “I want to restore hope. “

He just wants to do it on a soccer field, rather than on the track.


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