6 things to know about Colts rookie OT Jake Witt
The Indianapolis Colts used their final selection in the 2023 NFL draft on offensive tackle Jake Witt, a prospect who will certainly be viewed as a project entering the NFL.
The Northern Michigan product has an intriguing path to the NFL considering his newness to the game of football and his unorthodox path through the college ranks.
Here’s a look at six things to know about the player selected with the No. 236 overall pick:
Witt comes from the small town of Bruce Crossing in Michigan. His graduating high school class at the time had just 16 students, and Witt was the valedictorian of the class, according to Dane Brugler of The Athletic.
Late start to football
Witt did not begin playing football until his junior year in high school and at the time, they played the eight-man version. He started out as a 235-pound wide receiver, catching 102 passes in 18 games during his final two seasons, according to Brugler.
College basketball and transfer to NMU
Witt was much more polished as a basketball player in high school. He earned the Upper Peninsula Mr. Basketball honor following his senior season and, according to Brugler, posted over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his high school career.
Witt eventually made the decision to pursue basketball in college, attending Michigan Tech for his freshman season. He told The Athletic he had two other football offers from Northern Michigan and Central Michigan but ultimately decided to pursue basketball.
As Witt switched majors following his freshman season, it forced him to transfer to Northern Michigan. He did so, taking a year off from sports altogether.
Eventually getting back into football, Witt joined the Northern Michigan spring roster in 2020 as a tight end. However, the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Midway through the 2021 season, Witt was forced to play right tackle in the middle of a game due to injuries. Despite being 265 pounds, Witt excelled beyond expectations against one of the best Division II teams in the nation.
After starting the final two games of the season at right tackle, the team decided to make the change permanent while also moving him to the left side, according to Brugler. Witt then started all 11 games at left tackle in 2022.
An elite athlete
Much of the optimism about Witt’s upside stems from his elite athletic traits. He didn’t go to the NFL combine but showed off his intriguing traits at Central Michigan’s pro day. He continued to add weight, getting up to 302 pounds, while retaining elite speed, explosiveness and short-area quickness.
He posted a near-perfect Relative Athletic Score (RAS) and would have been arguably the most athletic offensive tackle at the combine had he attended.
(Courtesy of Kent Lee Platte)
According to Brugler, “Among the offensive linemen at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, Witt’s 40 would have ranked No. 1; his vertical would have tied BYU’s Blake Freeland for the positional top spot; and his broad jump would have been the best among all offensive linemen in the past 10 years (just ahead of Tristan Wirfs’ 10-1). Witt also posted a 7.44 three-cone, 4.62 short shuttle and did 22 reps on the bench press with his 33 1/2-inch arms.”
Colts drafted him based off workout
Colts general manager Chris Ballard admitted after the draft that he was enamored by Witt’s pre-draft workout at Central Michigan so much that it led to him using the No. 236 overall pick to get him.
“Yeah that’s a swing. I remember sitting in the draft room about three weeks ago just watching his workout and I was like, ‘Dang, I’m going to draft this dude just off the workout.’ Look, he’s raw and it’s going to take him some time. Remember when we signed Mo (Alie-Cox) a few years back, basketball player. Now, he’s had some experience playing, but I mean he’s 6-7, 300 pounds. He ran 4.8, he verticaled 37. He’s got all the athletic traits you look for. He hasn’t played a lot of football. So, we’ll see if we can develop him. I think we can. We sent Tony (Sparano Jr.) to work him out. Tony came back raving saying, ‘Look, I think we can make this guy a player.’ Then I knew the competition was going to be so heavy after the draft, I said, ‘Screw it. We’re just going to draft him.’”