By Jeremy Hritz
With everybody looking to Willie Colon to provide a major upgrade at the left guard position for the 2012 season, it is appropriate to get reacquainted with the player who has been sidelined the last two seasons.
Born April 9, 1983, Colon is a 29 year old from the Bronx, NY who attended Cardinal Hayes High School where he played football, basketball, and ran track. On the football field for Cardinal Hayes, Colon starred on the defensive line and earned the team’s Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year Award as a senior, recording 12 sacks. Coming out of high school, Colon made the selfless decision to attend Hofstra University so that he could be close to his mother who suffers from Lupus so that he could care for her. At Hofstra, a now defunct I-AA program, Colon made the shift to the offensive tackle and was a three year starter that earned All-Conference and All-American honors his senior season.
Leading up to the NFL Draft, Colon was projected as a late round prospect who possessed the nastiness, physical stature, and power to develop into an eventual starter. The sentiment at the time from many draftniks was that Colon was best suited to kick inside at guard, something that was finally made a reality this past week.
In the 2006 NFL Draft, the Steelers selected Colon in the fourth round with the 131st pick. In his first year with the Steelers, he started the final two games of the season at right tackle against Baltimore and Cincinnati. For three consecutive years following 2006, Colon started every game at right tackle, including the 2008 season that culminated with a Super Bowl Championship. If there is a red mark on Colon’s game, it is on his tendency to get flagged for holding and false starts, something that progressively improved as he gained experience.
Unfortunately in 2010, Colon experienced what would be the first of back to back injuries with a torn Achilles tendon, which sidelined him for the entire year. In 2011, Colon stepped back into the starting lineup at right tackle in week one against Baltimore only to suffer a torn triceps, which again sidelined him for the entire season (this coming after he had signed a five year extension in the summer for 29 million).
Equipped with the experience of 51 starts at right tackle, Colon will attempt to take his know-how and his bag of tricks to left guard. After the draft last month, Colon was notified of his position switch, a change that he seems satisfied with: “I like it. It’s just a matter of learning the verbiage,” Colon stated in an interview with Mike Prisuta.
The clamor for Colon to move to guard has been loud, and finally, it has been silenced. While the popular belief has been that he is best suited to play guard, his effectiveness at the position has yet to be seen. There seems to be a misconception that playing an interior line position is simpler than tackle and that Colon’s shift will be without stumbles; however, let’s temper our enthusiasm until we see Colon pull a few times.
Colon has experienced great misfortune the past two years, and the time that he has spent on the sidelines watching his team go a collective 24-8 was probably just as painful as the injuries he suffered. A fiery competitor, no doubt Colon is eager to get back on the field and help improve what has been a weak offensive line, regardless of where he lines up.