INDIANAPOLIS -- Daniel Adongo didn't even know how to put pads on when the Indianapolis Colts signed him in July.
The closest the Kenyan has come to playing in an NFL game was when the press box announcer mistakenly announced that he'd caught a 7-yard touchdown pass in Indianapolis' preseason finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
But now, four months and one transcontinental flight later, the former rugby standout has been added to the Colts' active roster.
"I think back to his very first workout, when we first brought him in after a 17-hour flight to Atlanta and a connection up here ... to try out, [and] from what we saw to right now, it's night and day," coach Chuck Pagano said. "The guy is a smart guy, we know from a physical standpoint he's very, very athletic. He can run, he's big, he's strong and he's a tireless worker."
The Colts added the linebacker to the active roster Tuesday after he'd spent the first 13 weeks of the season on the practice squad. Pagano said any playing time Adongo gets will be on special teams because the Colts already have five outside linebackers on the active roster.
"I think it's a good tribute that I put in the effort and hard work," Adongo said. "I'm excited for the opportunity. But with that said, I'm not going to let that excitement get to me."
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson has never been shy about going off the beaten path to find talent, and this is the first time Adongo has played football. He played rugby at the highest level in South Africa.
The Colts watched film of Adongo on the rugby field and saw a player who was athletic, had speed and was strong with good tackling skills. They emailed Adongo to see whether he would be interested in coming in for a workout. The Colts added him to the training camp roster shortly thereafter.
Adongo was a long shot to make the 53-man roster because of his steep learning curve. The Colts signed him to the practice squad because they felt he had potential.
Adongo's work ethic and the tutelage of veterans like linebacker Robert Mathis and defensive lineman Cory Redding have helped make his transition smoother. The 24-year-old has added more than 30 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame since signing with the Colts, pushing his weight to 270.
"The guy couldn't even put [football] pants on six months ago, knew nothing about football, and look at where he is now," Redding said. "He's giving the O-line fits. He's a very aggressive player, and I can't wait to see him line up, where they put him."
Special teams suit Adongo well because they allow him to use his speed to race down the field and pursue opponents the same way he did when he played rugby.
"He hasn't been on the field under the lights when it counts, but he's played on the big field before, and he's run around and tackled before with no pads," Pagano said. "I suspect instinctively he'll know how to do that. It might be more physical and violent because he does have pads. Don't be shocked if he gets the opportunity to knock some people around."