Jack Mewhort is greeted by head coach Urban Meyer during senior day. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Working the security detail for the neck-bearded face of the Indianapolis Colts is among the most important assignments in professional sports.
With no Andrew Luck, who was sacked a too-much-for-comfort 73 times the past two years, the Colts are just another franchise searching for the next great quarterback. Luck has finished his first two seasons in the playoffs and the Pro Bowl, and the team is banking on more in the future.
"As long as [Luck] is healthy and upright and he's got great protection and he's got enough weapons, we're probably going to be here for a long time," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
Understand then just how much the Colts believe in Jack Mewhort.
Even with two entrenched starting offensive tackles — the position where Mewhort became an All-American at Ohio State — a team with Super Bowl designs made the St. John’s Jesuit graduate its first selection with the 59th overall pick.
When Colts general manager Ryan Grigson called Mewhort with the news late Friday night, he told him, "You’ve been our guy for a long time."
"You're going to fit in well here," Grigson said, as seen in war-room footage released by the Colts. "We’re really excited to have you. You're going to help us protect Andrew Luck and win us multiple championships, OK?"
Mewhort said yes.
As Indianapolis officials cast light on their draft decision-making process, it remained unclear precisely where Mewhort fits this fall and beyond. But the Colts believe that is the beauty of the pick. With teams carrying only seven offensive linemen on their 53-man roster, Mewhort’s utility was a separating asset.
"I’ve forgot how many times we’ve even had our five starters play together," said Grigson, a Purdue offensive tackle in the 1990s. "It's so tough in this league to have continuity on the offensive line because there are so many injuries. Position flex is what separates teams. If you look at some of the teams that go deep in the playoffs ever year, they have tremendous position flex and versatility on their offensive line.
"Guys can play multiple spots, and to do that, you need smart guys that know how to play the game. Jack’s one of those guys. If you don't have a first-round pick, you really want to make that first pick count, and we felt like we did that with Jack."
The 6-foot-6, 309-pound Mewhort will likely begin on the interior at the Colts’ upcoming rookie minicamp. While former first-round picks Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus return as the starting tackles, Indianapolis is perilously thin up the middle. The Colts lost three offensive linemen who played at least 300 snaps last year and do not have a single free-agent replacement.
The surprise recent retirement of free agent Phil Costa even puts Mewhort in the mix at center, where he could challenge last year’s fourth-round pick, Khaled Holmes, for the starting job. The Colts knew Mewhort played center at St. John’s and were impressed by his play at guard as an OSU sophomore and during this year’s Senior Bowl.
No matter where he plays, Mewhort said, "I’m just excited to jump in and start working."
"We’ll get him in here and it’ll figure itself out, but we’ll find him a spot to start at and then let him go to work,” Pagano said. “He’s a dang good football player. He’s big, he’s tough, he’s smart, he loves football, he fits our culture, he fits our environment. He’ll be great in our locker room.
"He’s a horseshoe guy. What I love, he’s got nasty, he’s tough, and you’ve got to have that on the offensive line. We’re extremely excited to have him on board.”