Sylvarena, Mississippi. In this small town of approximately 120 people deep in the central part of the state and about a 3 hour drive to the northeast of New Orleans, former Ole Miss star, current Indianapolis Colts WR, and possible Saints 2018 NFL Free Agency target Donte Moncrief grew up living by the motto instilled in him by his parents: GOGA — which stands for "grind or get ate".
Moncrief even has those initials (GOGA) for his life-long motto tattooed across the entire length of his forearm, a motto that was first passed on to him by his mother Nineta Moncrief, the woman who rose at 3 a.m. every single morning to hustle off to work to support her family.
It became more than a motto to her youngest boy; it became his creed, his motive. Grind or get ate. Kill or be killed.
It now serves as a constant reminder of where he came from, and where he is ultimately headed in what will be his 5th NFL season in 2018.
Moncrief was drafted by the Colts as a junior in the 3rd Round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and has had an "up and down" NFL career already at only age 25. As Colts.com beat writer Andrew Walker notes: in 2015, in just his 2nd year in the League, Moncrief really began to blossom, as evidenced by his 64 receptions, 733 yards and six touchdowns.
As a direct result, most observers felt that the Colts were going to feature one of the best 1-2 punches at wide receiver in the NFL, as the team’s top target — the slick, speedy T.Y. Hilton — was already a perennial Pro Bowler, while Moncrief provided the perfect blend of both speed and size at 6-foot-2 to make big plays all over the field for QB Andrew Luck.
But Walker adds that Moncrief would fall victim to the injury bug the next two seasons, and after appearing in all 16 games his first two years in the league, he’d appear in just nine and 12 games, respectively, in 2016 and 2017.
He battled through those issues to catch an impressive seven touchdowns in 2016, but his most recent season last year in the 2017 regular season included career lows in receptions (26) and touchdowns (two).
However, Moncrief still has PLENTY of potential, and at 25, he has also has the time to improve but has to show everyone that he isn't injury-prone (as he's been labeled). Some Saints fans will remember that coming out of Ole Miss, Moncrief was projected to blossom into a NFL "superstar".
Could a "change of scenery" and playing "close to home" for the Saints, be the impetus for Moncrief to get his career back on track?
Originally a track and field star as well as the starting WR at nearby Raleigh High School, Moncrief was awarded a scholarship to the University of Mississippi in 2011; where he finished 3rd in Ole Miss football program history in receptions (156), receiving yards (2,371) and receiving touchdowns (20).
Those are very impressive numbers for a player who passed on his senior season — but Moncrief's junior year in the 2013 season (59 catches, 938 yards, six touchdowns) were a slight regression from his breakout sophomore season in 2012: when he hauled in 66 receptions for 979 yards and 10 TDs.
Moncrief averaged 15.9 yards a reception in his last season at Ole Miss, and 15.2 for his 3-year college career. Thirteen of his last 16 touchdown catches for the Rebels covered 20 yards or more. Perhaps even more impressive was the way in which he was able to out-manuever defensive backs to make those catches.
Moncrief's wingspan is 77 7/8 inches. That stamps him as ideal for back-shoulder throws and red zone jump-balls. And standing at 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, Moncrief's blend of size and speed still remain despite his recent battle with injuries while playing for the Colts.
After all, this is the very same player who created considerable buzz when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds flat at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine a few years ago That was his "official" time. He ran 4.35 for his first 40.
Moncrief's 4.4 was the eighth-fastest time posted and the third-best by a wide receiver. His 39½-inch vertical jump was 10th-best overall, No. 3 among receivers. His 11-foot standing broad jump ranked 3rd and topped all receivers that year. In all, it was a jaw-dropping and incredible workout for a man so large.
It's the reason why Indianapolis was giddy at the prospect of putting Moncrief into their offense, but one that never quite came to fruition because of all the injury issues that have plagued the Colts franchise ever since.
Now with yesterday's brand new hire of former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich to become the next Colts head coach to replace the recently fired Chuck Pagano, there's always the chance that Moncrief could ultimately decide to return to Indianapolis and become a part of a brand new chapter of Indianapolis Colts football.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) February 11, 2018
Moncrief could also decide to test the waters of 2018 NFL Free Agency, and certainly New Orleans would seem to be one of the top teams on his list, given the close proximity of NOLA to his hometown Mississippi roots.
Moncrief would be a nice addition to the Saints WR corps, and would give them another potentially explosive target to add to the mix within the offensive scheme as they try to win another Super Bowl before Drew Brees eventually retires in a few more years from now.
Ultimately, it will all come down to his health — and whether or not the Sylvarena, Mississippi native is finally ready to live up to the potential that he once was thought to be destined to experience.