The path to the NFL has no specific route.
Players make their way to the league from a variety of different backgrounds and through all kinds of journeys.
In more recent years, we have seen more and more players with international ties try to make their impact in the NFL.
For the Indianapolis Colts, three players alone in the 2021 draft class fall into this category. We’ve talked about Kwity Paye immigrating from Guinea and the parents of Dayo Odeyingbo immigrating from Nigeria in this series, but now it’s time to learn the story of a kid from the Bahamas.
With the Olympic summer games underway, we dive into the story of Mike Strachan in this installment of "Rookie Files" on Horseshoe Huddle. Once striving towards a possible run in the Olympics himself, the young wide receiver now looks to turn an NFL dream into reality.
A Multi-Sport Phenom
Strachan (pronounced Strawn) was born on Aug. 13, 1997, in Freeport, Bahamas. As a young kid growing up, it was evident that he possessed great athletic ability.
Strachan and his brothers loved playing all kinds of sports. While he enjoyed football and basketball, he aspired to represent his home country in the Olympics as a sprinter. Before moving to the United States, Strachan thought his future was going to be in track.
Strachan and his family did not move to the United States until he was already in high school. They moved to Lynchburg, Va. where he enrolled at Liberty Christian Academy as a sophomore, where he lettered in basketball, football, and track.
Strachan immediately showed off his athletic talents and an expanded love for the game of football. He helped Liberty Christian capture the state championship in 2013 and was named to the All-Conference team his senior year. Strachan proved that he could get things done on the field, and possibly play at the next level.
However, the Olympic dream was still alive as he continued his athletic dominance on the track. As a senior in 2016, he finished third at the Virginia state championships in the 400m. Along with setting personal bests in almost all of his races, Strachan wanted to not only play football at the collegiate level but run track as well.
Even with the success that Strachan had, he did not generate much buzz as a recruit. Ranked as a no-star prospect, he only received interest from FCS schools and was not offered by any Division I schools. Academic testing was also an issue as it was tough to get his full academic records when he moved from the Bahamas.
Strachan finally found the right fit for him, as he signed with Division II Charleston for both football and track. Not only could he continue his football career, but the Olympic dream was still attainable.
Dominating the Competition
As Strachan began his college career, success on the football field did not come right away. He redshirted as a freshman and only caught one pass in his first year of action. It wasn’t the start he had wanted, but it motivated him to show everyone what he was capable of.
He burst onto the scene as a sophomore, entering the starting lineup for the Golden Eagles and earning First-Team All-MEC with 48 catches for 1,007 yards and 8 touchdowns. Strachan became the first player in school history to go over 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
His junior year was even more prolific. Strachan dominated the competition to the tune of 78 catches for 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns, setting school records in all three categories. His play earned him Second-Team All-American, First-Team All-MEC, and the attention of NFL clubs around the country.
While dominating on the football field, he once again proved to be one of the best on the track. Strachan racked up quite a few conference championships in both indoor and outdoor track, including the 200m and the 400m. His 400m championship also broke a school record at 47.59 seconds.
Strachan was proving the doubters wrong and showing everyone how much of an athletic freak he was. 2020 was going to be a huge year for him as he looked not only to solidify himself as a wide receiver with NFL talent, but also qualify for the summer Olympic games.
The Pandemic Puts a Halt to a Dream
2020 did not go the way that any of us wanted. For Strachan and many other athletes around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major effect on their seasons and future endeavors within their sports.
Charleston’s 2020 football season was canceled due to the pandemic, and thus Strachan’s senior year of football would not be happening. On top of that, his track season was also canceled and the 2020 Olympic summer games postponed to 2021.
Strachan was now faced with a decision. He could either focus on football and start to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, or put his focus towards preparing for the Olympic qualifiers in 2021. It was a very hard decision for Strachan as he had always dreamed of running in the Olympics, but there was no guarantee he would make the team and he would be passing up on a chance to play in the NFL.
In the end, Strachan decided to pursue his dream in the NFL. It was a very tough decision for the 23-year-old to make, but he had faith that his talents on the field would give him the best chance at a career.
Strachan trained all through the fall and winter months to keep his body in shape and make sure he improved on his game.
“For me right after I heard the news that I wasn’t going to be able to have a season, I just stayed sharp,” Strachan said in OTAs. “My teammates and I, we kept going on the field, keeping track of our position specifics, getting better. So, I didn’t stop working. I knew that for the future something good was coming so I stayed the course and I kept working.”
When the spring rolled around, he received an invitation to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and was ready to prove that he was a legitimate NFL prospect. Unfortunately, this game too was canceled due to the pandemic.
With Strachan running out of options, and not many people expected to attend Charleston’s pro day, he decided to attend West Virginia’s pro day in the hopes of performing in front of more NFL personnel and proving he could hang with the competition. His gamble ended up paying off.
Strachan was a star at the West Virginia pro day. While posting great measurements (6’5”, 226) and numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.5 sec) and vertical jump (35 inches), he also excelled on the field with his large catch radius and showing improvement in his route running. A team in attendance that came away very impressed by Strachan was none other than the Colts, giving him the chance he had worked so hard for when they selected him in the seventh round of the NFL draft.
How Strachan Helps the Colts
Strachan comes to the Colts as a wide receiver with an elite combination of height, weight, and speed. As the tallest receiver on the Colts roster, he brings a physical presence to the receiving core to go along with Michael Pittman Jr. and Dezmon Patmon.
He is a dangerous vertical threat with a large catch radius, as he routinely beat defenders on vertical routes and in jump ball situations. Averaging 18.4 yards per catch in his career at Charleston, Strachan possesses the explosive playmaking ability that head coach Frank Reich loves to incorporate in his offense.
While he is a very physical player that is built more like a power forward than a wide receiver, Strachan will need to make the adjustment from DII competition to pro football. But he has shown he is more than ready for the challenge.
“Moving forward into the NFL it is a high level, and right now it’s just being able to come in and compete,” Strachan said. “That’s going to be the biggest thing and being tough. Toughness is probably one of the biggest assets to this game and that’s something that I want to bring forth to the Colts’ Nation.”
One of the knocks on Strahan’s game is that he is still pretty raw with some aspects of his game, including his route running capabilities. However, with the work that he has put in since 2019, general manager Chris Ballard has said that Strachan may not be as raw as people think and could surprise people in camp. Reports out of OTAs mentioned Strachan getting some run with the first-team offense, and he has been developing a quick rapport with quarterback Carson Wentz.
Expect Strachan to compete for a roster spot with Patmon and Ashton Dulin as the Colts look to round out their wide receiver core. If Strachan isn’t as raw as we may think and turns heads in camp, he could provide a big deep threat the Colts would love to incorporate into their offense.
While one dream of the Olympics may be in the rear-view mirror, another dream of playing in the NFL is there for the taking for Strachan and very well could turn into much more.
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