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Hail Caesar: Indianapolis Colts Sign Linebacker

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Hail Caesar:  Indianapolis Colts Sign Linebacker
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The Colts continue to take the road less traveled, signing yet another veteran of the Arena Football …

The Indianapolis Colts want warriors and leaders, so it's no surprise that they've signed a linebacker whose name harkens back to one of the greatest military leaders in history. All hail Caesar. Caesar Rayford, that is.

Rayford, 27, is a 6-foot-7, 265-pound beast out of Washington who comes to the NFL by way of the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League.

After completing his college career with the Huskies, Rayford signed with the BC Lions in the CFL in 2008 and again in 2009. In between stints with the Lions, Rayford played for the Spokane Shock in 2009, who were then part of the af2--the Arena Football League's developmental league. Rayford helped the Shock win ArenaCup X that season.

The following year, Rayford signed with the AFL's Utah Blaze, where he has played defensive end for the past four seasons.

I follow the Arena Football League closely, and Rayford is one of the big names in that league. He really came into his own in 2011, using his big body and unstoppable motor to create all kinds of havoc for opponents. In one game, he registered three sacks. He piled up 10 sacks on the year and added seven pass break-ups, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and five blocked kicks which, at the time, set the league record. He was named first-team All-Arena at the conclusion of the season.

Last season, he continued as one of the premier defenders in the AFL, racking up another 7.5 sacks, two hurries, three pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. For the second time in two years, he registered three sacks in a single game.

And in the first eight games of the 2013 season for the Blaze, Rayford is still terrorizing opponents. He already has six sacks, three hurries, two pass break-ups, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, three blocked kicks and a safety to his name.

Rayford has been durable, too, missing no time due to injury over his four-year career there. He holds the franchise record for most games played as a member of the Blaze.

In arena football, offensive stats are Madden-like and have to be taken with a grain of salt when trying to translate into NFL terms. The entire structure of the game gives the offense a tremendous advantage, leading to final scores like the white-knuckle, last-second 83-82 victory by the Orlando Predators against the Shock earlier this month. It's the kind of stuff that arena fans love.

Defensive stats, however, are easier to translate, and as a longtime fan of both the AFL and the Colts, I'm excited that Rayford is joining the team. As a dominant and disruptive AFL defender, he has the size and the skill set to land a spot on the Indianapolis roster, even if it's on the practice squad at first.

I also continue to love Colts general manager Ryan Grigson's enthusiasm with tapping into the Arena Football League for talent. By my count, Rayford is the sixth player with arena football experience to get a shot with the Colts since Grigson arrived in 2012.

Last season, Grigson brought Ty Nsekhe and the late Jerry Brown in from the AFL's San Antonio Talons. In January, the Colts signed linebacker Jake Killeen of the Talons and enormous wide receiver Jeremy Kelley from the Jacksonville Sharks, who played with Rayford last year with the Blaze. Shock wide receiver Kamar Jorden was invited to the three-day minicamp with the Colts earlier this month.

Nsekhe went on to play in two games for the St. Louis Rams last season. Brown was killed in a car accident in December while a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Jorden is back with the Shock, but Kelley is still on the Colts roster.

Unfortunately, the signing of Rayford cost Killeen his roster spot.

Nevertheless, Grigson is proving that he'll search all corners of the professional football world to find guys who will make the Colts better, and Rayford has the talent to be one of those guys.

All hail Caesar.

The author is a resident of central Indiana and a longtime fan of the Colts.

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