From hoopster to preseason sack leader

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts linebacker Caesar Rayford's physique is better suited for playing power forward on the basketball court. He stands 6-foot-7, weighs 267 pounds and says he'd be a Dennis Rodman-type player.

“I did play basketball,” Rayford said. “I was recruited out of high school. I still play basketball a lot in my offseason. That’s like my conditioning because I do love playing some basketball. That was my first love.”

Rayford’s first love may be basketball, but he’s currently on the football field trying to make things difficult for the Colts' coaching staff and front office officials when they have to trim the roster.

Rayford, who played at the University of Washington, heads into Saturday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns with a team-high three sacks. One those sacks led to a fumble and Dax Swanson returned it for a touchdown.

“Certain situations he has shined and we're looking for good things from him coming up in this game," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "Every week is just a process of building guys up and keeping on working with them, and right now he's having a pretty good preseason."

Rayford’s football résumé doesn’t include the NFL. He spent time playing in the Canadian and Arena leagues. The 27-year-old Rayford had almost 30 sacks during his three-plus seasons with the Utah Blaze of the AFL.

“You got the guys that get the front door. You got the guys that get the back door,” Rayford said about the scenic route he’s taken to try to reach the NFL. “Then you got guys like me that got to climb the house and jump through the chimney. Hopefully that landing doesn’t hurt too bad and I get back up. I’m definitely blessed for the opportunity.”

Rayford faces an uphill battle to make the roster because veteran Robert Mathis and first-round pick Bjoern Werner are ahead of him at the rush linebacker spot.

Saturday is the final time Rayford will be able to impress the coaching staff before rosters have to be trimmed from 90 to 75 players next week.

“He’s making a case for himself, obviously,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “You come in here not knowing anything about what we’re doing and he’s shown up on game day…. Got a long way to go, but he’s definitely taking advantage of the opportunities that he’s getting out there and he’s being productive when he’s out there.”