INDIANAPOLIS – With how Chris Ballard has handled the left tackle position in his 6-year drafting tenure, it says something about Bernhard Raimann that the Colts feel he can play such a coveted position, as a third-round pick.
Ballard’s first few drafts as GM probably wouldn’t have led to Raimann being taken.
Seeing how Braden Smith—who, like Raimann, doesn’t possess a long-ish wingspan for the tackle position—has made the adjustment to tackle has altered some of Ballard’s thinking.
While much of the NFL significantly downgraded Raimann (who stands 6-6) for his sub-33 inch arms, the Colts chose to look at how the former tight end can make up for that.
The Colts love the footwork and movement ability of Raimann, seeing a high-end athlete in the agility department, which can help make up for shorter than desired arms at the tackle position.
Therefore, Ballard thinks Raimann can play left tackle at the NFL-level, marking him the first tackle pick by Ballard in the first six rounds since Zach Banner in 2017.
Raimann’s background to playing the game of football is pretty remarkable.
“It all happened pretty randomly to be honest,” the 24-year-old Raimann says. “I grew up playing soccer and then other sports, but one day when I was 13 years old, I saw some guys down the road playing catch with a football down by my dad’s house. I ended up joining them and I had a ton of fun just rolling around with them, tackling, throwing the ball.
“So, on my 14th birthday, there was a tryout for the Vienna Vikings, a club American football team in Vienna. I ended up trying out, worked out and just went from there.”
The path to Raimann ending up with the Colts had a few other twists and turns.
Raimann attended high school in Michigan, with his host family’s dad having played football at Central Michigan.
That connection played a role in Raimann going to CMU, but as a tight end.
After just 20 catches in his first two years of college, Raimann made a switch to the offensive line.
It was a 60-pound weight gain, during the start of COVID, that helped Raimann get to a playing weight which allowed him to be CMU’s starting left tackle for his final two seasons of college football.
Now, Raimann weighs 303 pounds.
It’s that background of him on the soccer fields in Europe or as a tight end just a few years ago that have the Colts thinking he can overcome a shorter wingspan.
“I take a lot of pride in my athleticism,” Raimann says. “I keep working on it, no matter how much weight I gain or whatever. I try to be as athletic as I can so then that way, I can be out on the field playing loose, playing aggressive and really can enforce my playing style on the defense. For me, it’s a really important part of my game and I just plan on improving it more and more and keep working.”
The tight end to offensive line transition for Raimann will have Colts fans thinking about the story of Joe Reitz doing something similar, albeit from the basketball floor.
In a way, the unique makeup of a guy like Reitz is something that Raimann carries with him in his own remarkable journey to the NFL.
Playing left tackle in the NFL is no easy task.
Whiffs and getting beat are inevitable.
But the Colts feel that Raimann has the physical, and mental, gifts to handle it all.
“(Raimann) blocked people on tape, that’s number one,” Ballard says when asked about the ‘unique’ evaluation of the Austrian. “Even with his traits, he was productive. He’s still learning how to play the position but if you just look at his growth from his – so, the COVID year, he was a tight end his first two years, moves to tackle and then the growth from his junior to his senior season, we think he’s going to keep taking those incremental jumps.
“This is a smart guy now. I want to say he’s got his degree in actuarial science. This guy is brilliant. He’s got a great story.”