INDIANAPOLIS — The path is in place for Marcel Dabo.
It’s based on patience with the final destination being a spot on the Indianapolis Colts’ active roster, perhaps as late as 2023.
But Dabo isn’t necessarily interested in meandering his way down that path, as well-intentioned as it is.
“I want to make an impact right away,” he said this week in a Zoom conference call he navigated while answering questions in German and English. “That’s what I told the coaches. I don’t want to rely on the IPP program that much.”
“I just want to make an impact on Sundays and that’s what I think I’m capable of doing, especially on special teams at the beginning.”
Dabo was funneled to the Colts as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, which is in its sixth year of giving international players an opportunity to improve their skills and, ideally, earn a spot on an NFL roster.
To enhance that process, teams are allowed to carry an IPP prospect on the roster throughout training camp without counting against the 90-player roster. During the regular season, that player can be carried as an extra practice squad member, and is eligible to be added to the active roster.
The program essentially provides an international prospect a redshirt season. That can be invaluable to a player’s growth, but Dabo would prefer a quicker learning curve.
“I really want to make the roster as soon as possible,” he said.
Dabo’s journey to Indy covered more than 4,400 miles and crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He participated in the Stuttgart (Germany) Scorpions youth football program before entering the European League of Football last season. He was a cornerback/kick returner for the Stuttgart Surge and was the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after collecting 28 tackles and one interception.
After advancing through the various stages of the IPP’s evaluation process, Dabo was part of the IPP’s Pro Day in March, which was held in conjunction with Arizona State’s Pro Day. In late March and before returning to Germany April 9, he met with the Colts at their Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center.
“It was really great,” he said.
Dabo spent time with general manager Chris Ballard, coach Frank Reich, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, defensive backs coach Ron Milus and assistant Mike Mitchell. They reviewed his Pro Day tape and projected how he might fit in Bradley’s defense.
“In Germany I used to play cornerback mostly and in Gus’ defense I really fit as a safety or a nickel,” said Dabo.
The Colts understand Dabo is likely a long-term developmental investment, but he fits their personnel profile. He’s one of those freakish athletes.
Dabo is 6’0″ and 208 pounds. At his Pro Day, he turned a 4.52 time in the 40-yard dash, had a 40.5 vertical jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times.
For context, consider he would have posted the top bench press and second-best vertical jump among cornerbacks (Tariq Woolen had a 42-inch vertical). Among safeties, Dabo’s vertical would have been No. 1 and his bench tied for third.
His 40 time would have ranked tied-23rd among corners and 12th among safeties.
Dabo had no control over his placement in the NFL, but considers the Colts an ideal landing spot. He sees a DB room that includes Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year and a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and Pro Bowl nickel Kenny Moore II.
“Amazing,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to learning from them. I’m looking forward to soaking everything in.”
Dabo understands there’s going to be a transition period. In Germany, he generally practiced three times a week, which made it difficult to get better.
“The biggest difference is to actually act professional because football in America compared to Germany is very different,” he said.
He was given at least a glimpse of what to expect after talking with one of Germany’s top football exports, Bjoern Werner. The Colts selected the Berlin-born Werner in the 1st round of the 2013 draft.
“We have a close bond,” Dabo said of the football community in Germany. “We have contact with anyone who has made it into the NFL . . . I also had a conversation with Bjoern about the Colts and hos it went.
“I don’t consider myself an international player in terms of coaches looking at me. Of course I’m an international player, but I really want to make the roster as soon as possible.”
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.