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Lessons Learned In The CFL Are Paying Off For Colts’ Dontrelle Inman

The Colts are 9-1 since wide receiver Dontrelle Inman's relationship with HC Frank Reich and past CFL success brought him to Indy.

For the first six weeks of the 2018 NFL season, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Dontrelle Inman was at home watching the games on television, desperate to get back into the league after being released by the Chicago Bears in 2017.

Relationships mean everything in the NFL. And Inman had an ace in the hole in Colts rookie head coach Frank Reich, who eventually brought him into the loop. 

Kevin Bowen on Twitter

Frank Reich on a conference call mentions the trust that Andrew Luck has and appreciation for Dontrelle Inman: “He’s looking for reasons to throw the ball to Dontrelle.

“Once Coach Frank Reich got the job in Indianapolis, I told him congratulations and it would be an honor if he brought me in,” Dontrelle told the Shadow League on the eve of the Colts’ AFC Divisional Round road playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday.   


“They flew me in on a visit in April, but there was a delay due to negotiations and money and the GM wouldn’t pull the trigger on it and we just didn’t agree on some things, Inman recalls. “So as the season went on and the team started 1-5, I sent Coach Reich a text and said, ‘Hey, I think I need to be in your locker room.”


Inman spent two seasons playing in Reich’s system when Reich was offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers (2014-2015). They kept in touch and developed a friendship over the years. 

“He sent me a text back and told me he would try everything he could to get me there, Inman said. “It was just one of those things where I had a coach that was just pulling for me my whole career. Even when he was in Philadelphia we would text back and forth, so that’s really how I became a Colt.”

SNF on NBC on Twitter

Between Frank Reich, Andrew Luck, and reaching the playoffs after a 1-5 start this @Colts team knows a thing or two about comebacks. https://t.co/L4cWWHrP0J


No one knew Inman’s arrival would turn the season around. Offensively, he hit the ground running, collecting 28 catches and three TDs.  Andrew Luck says his work ethic is sick and he’s the ultimate pro. 

“…I think one, it speaks to his professionalism. Two, I think a locker room gets a sense very quickly for any guy,” said Luck told Usa Today.  “In a sense, there is always a jury out when a new guy comes and fairly quickly I think we see the real person. Dontrelle has just been a pro.”

Since Inman’s arrival, the Colts are 9-1. Inman says they treat every game like a playoff game, so don’t expect the Colts receivers to abandon the winning sauce and attempt to outdo Tyreek Hill and those boys in KC.

It’s just business as usual. No extra pressure.

Inman: “We just do us at the end of the day. We don’t want to lose focus or our identity. There’s no pressure. Since Week 7 we’ve been playing playoff elimination ball. So we are dedicated to making each play and executing each assignment sound. No game is bigger than the next game”

The fact that Reich uses the same offensive system with Andrew Luck as he did with Phillip Rivers has benefitted Inman tremendously.

Inman: “This is one of the offenses that I grew up in as a pro. The coaches that groomed me in this offense are the same coaches I have now.  It’s one of those things where timing is perfect. I’ve been put in the best situation that I can possibly ask for.”


Mike Chappell on Twitter

Right time, right place. Over last 11 games, Andrew Luck targeting Dontrelle Inman: 32-of-43, 357 yards, 4 TDs, 129.7 passer rating. https://t.co/vJpb4uVawo via @fox59


It’s actually football heaven for a guy who took a road less traveled to the NFL’s big stage.

The Journey: CFL TO NFL 

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Inman: “In 2011 I signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars out of Virginia. I got released due to injuries and went straight up to Canada and played in the CFL. During that process, I learned a lot about the professional aspects of sports. 

The NFL only has a certain amount of spots and the spots that aren’t filled… all those guys and all that talent goes up to Canada to compete. So the CFL is a league with great competition. That league helped me become the player I am today. Learning about the game. Learning what it takes to win championships.”


Playing in the CFL actually fostered the key relationships that Inman would need to make it to the NFL.

Inman: “My head coach when I was playing up in Canada was Scott Milanovich. He’s the offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars and played in the NFL. He was tight with Coach Reich. Milanovich was talking to Frank about me one day and said ‘You know If I had 52 more of these guys we’d win every single game.’

CFL News on Twitter

Argos Head Coach Scott Milanovich:”I think he (WR Dontrelle Inman) has a chance to be very good.” via @TSN1050Radio #CFL #Argos

We won a Grey Cup championship together in 2012 with the Toronto Argonauts. By 2014, I snagging balls from Phillip Rivers on Sundays. 

Few players get the chance to catch balls from two future Hall of Famers. When asked, Inman noted the similarities and differences between Rivers and Luck.

NFL on Twitter

Most Trustworthy QBs In The #NFLPlayoffs: 1. @PatrickMahomes5 2. Andrew Luck 3-8. https://t.co/4N4jTdWoBS (via @greggrosenthal)

Inman: “Phillip is old school and he’s been doing it for 16 years. He can draw up a play and read a defense with his eyes closed and Andrew Luck is getting there. But at the end of the day, they are both competitors.

Phil talks trash and doesn’t care. It is what it is. And he doesn’t need his receivers to talk trash for him. Andrew Luck is that nice guy, but he’s a silent assassin.  

Sporting News NFL on Twitter

Tom Brady’s take on Philip Rivers: ‘He’s kind of like me’ https://t.co/VfUGfSEyeU

He does everything that you need as a QB. They both grind hard. They’re both dedicated to their craft and that’s something special and those are the ones who are great at that position.

Inman’s also dedicated to his craft so it’s a match made in heaven. He arrived on Oct. 16, following the disastrous loss to the New York Jets and climbed his way up the depth chart.  Inman’s combination of reliable hands, astute route running and being a savage third-down converter, has turned him into a solid complement to T.Y. Hilton

Resilience In The Race

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Rebounding from 1-5 to reach the playoffs showed great resilience by a Colts team who was counted out early on.

That bounce back is a characteristic that Inman’s relied on throughout his life. 

Inman: “I grew up the majority of time spent with my grandma in South Carolina. If you go back to SC today it’s the same South Carolina that it was in 2006. So you can only imagine.

It was tough. I dealt with racial inequalities at times growing up. I was one of the few to get out and I’m lucky I had the support of my family and coaches to instill in me that no matter what anyone else says just continue being the best you.

Dontrelle Inman on Twitter

Thrilled to be featured in @TheQGentleman… https://t.co/mLVYhZiRdA

I was rolling to a big-time scholarship in high school and blew out my knee senior year. I went from 20 offers down to 1.

But the University of Virginia still believed in me.  My grandmother looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know why you’re crying. It’s not the end of the world. You got a lot of life left. If football is not meant to be, it’s just not meant to be. At that moment I realize that life is bigger than all…football is just a platform that God gave me.”