CEDAR FALLS — Daurice Fountain’s dream of an NFL career was on his fingertips.
Then on Sept. 1, that dream temporarily slipped through the former University of Northern Iowa All-American receiver’s fingers when the Indianapolis Colts made him one of their final roster cuts.
After clearing waivers, however, the Colts added Fountain, their fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft, to their practice squad.
With the Colts playing on Thursday last week, the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Fountain was back in Cedar Falls Saturday to watch his alma mater play North Dakota State.
“For me, I knew it wasn’t the end of my career,” he said. “That is not how I looked at it. I looked at it as it was giving me a chance to heal up, and secondly it was giving me a chance to be a better student of the game.
“This time on the practice squad ... I don’t know how to explain it, but it is allowing me to catch up and get that NFL vibe. It is making me better.”
A knee injury slowed Fountain early in training camp with the Colts. He had only one catch for 14 yards and a touchdown drop against the Baltimore Ravens before hauling in three passes for 32 yards in Indianapolis’ final preseason game.
That performance was not quite enough for Fountain to make the 53-man roster.
Fountain said Colts’ coach Frank Reich told him to go and treat his time on the 10-man practice roster as a redshirt year. Although it was painful at the time, Fountain can laugh about that reference now.
“It is real good right now,” Fountain said. “Every week is another chance to get better.
“I was just talking to Coach Farley (UNI head coach Mark) and I told him I always wanted to redshirt here and I never did. Now I’m getting that opportunity, and I hate it.”
Fountain says he hates it, but he’s also the first to say he needed time on the practice squad.
“I thought I took care of my body here at UNI, but you really have to take it to a whole new level in the NFL,” Fountain said. “That is one of the things that really held me back. I had a little knee injury during training camp and it set me back two, three weeks.
“When I came back, you really saw it. I wasn’t up to speed. In college, you can get away with being a dominant receiver just by using your athleticism. In the NFL you have to be on the same page as the quarterback, and when I say that, that means recognizing coverages and knowing what type of technique the cornerback is playing you by the way he lines up.”
Fountain is patiently waiting his turn. His chance on the 53-man roster could come at any moment.
“I’m enjoying this process,” Fountain said. “I’m working hard, I’m getting better and just waiting for my opportunity. You never know when you are going to get elevated to the active roster. You make the most of what you’ve got now, wait for your opportunity and then make the most of it when it comes.
“That is what it is, and that is what I’m going to do.”