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INDIANAPOLISAs Alec Pierce was making fans of the Hoosiers and Fighting Irish let out a few expletives, the Colts were closely watching.

There was Chris Ballard in the Bloomington press box last September, as Pierce caught 5 balls for 86 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown, helping Cincinnati come back to beat IU.

Two weeks later, Ed Dodds, the right-hand man to Ballard, was in South Bend, as the No. 7 ranked Bearcats ushered one of the biggest wins in program history, beating Notre Dame, 24-13. Once again, Pierce was outstanding, catching 6 passes for 144 yards.

Pierce might bring up some memories to forget for fans of the Hoosiers or Irish, but respect was earned after what he did to them last fall.

Now, they hope those same plays are done with a horseshoe on his helmet.

When Ballard sat down at the end of last season, he wrote down that the Colts had to add some explosive playmaking to their offense.

And during the draft process, the Colts GM couldn’t help but think back to what Pierce did in those games.

“Just put on the Notre Dame game,” Ballard says when describing Pierce. “I mean he played about as well as you could play against a top-five college football team.

“He’s got really good size, has really good vertical speed. He’s got work to do, like any rookie receiver that comes into the league, but we think he’s got a chance to really ascend.”

At 6-3 and 211 pounds, Pierce packs a rare trio of elite size, vertical speed and jumping ability. It’s that combination that has the Colts eager to see the potential.

“The one thing you notice about Pierce is he gets behind people,” Ballard says. “This kid can really, really run and really adjust to the football.

“There’s some work from a route-running perspective, which most receivers have to work on anyways, but we like his upside.”

Pierce agrees that his route-running is an area for improvement.

When the Colts worked Pierce out in Cincinnati just a few weeks prior to the draft, with new wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne in attendance, they saw some development that he can grow into more of a full-route tree guy.

In a funny way, one of Wayne’s strength as a Hall of Fame type player (his route running) is where Pierce needs to grow.

The Colts envision Pierce as an outside wideout opposite Michael Pittman. They feel the former defender-turned-wideout, a resume that Pittman also brought to the NFL, can do some of the dirty work blocking that Zach Pascal previously excelled in.

“One of the things I like on (Pierce’s) tape is I like him outside,” Frank Reich says. “I think he’s very good versus press, I think he’s got length and vertical speed to get down the field. I think for his size, he’s a very good route runner.

“So, it’ll be fun to see him grow and develop and compete over these next couple of months.”

Personally, Pierce says he patterns his game after Jordy Nelson or A.J. Green.

You watch Pierce play and the evidence of his volleyball background is obvious. His knack for high-pointing deep balls and then calmly coming down with those plays is something the Colts have not had in quite some time.

If Pierce can translate what he did on Saturday’s in this state, to Sunday’s, the Colts will have an element to their offense that can allow this unit to make a needed jump.

“I think I’m a guy you can put to the boundary and I’m able to beat coverage one-on-one with speed and size,” the new rookie wideout says. “(I’m) able to go get the ball, being able to stretch the field vertically and hopefully make them have to play safeties over the top and open up the run game.”