Villanova lineman Ijalana looking forward to protecting Colts' Manning

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"One of my strengths is pass protection," Ben Ijalana said after being drafted. (David Swanson/Staff file photo)

Ben Ijalana was extremely giddy around 11 p.m. Friday. And with just cause.

Less than four hours earlier, the Villanova senior had become the Indianapolis Colts' second-round pick in the NFL draft.

For the 6-foot-3, 317-pound offensive lineman, things couldn't get any better. He'll have the opportunity to protect future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.

"Definitely," Ijalana said when asked if he was excited about that opportunity. "One of my strengths is pass protection."

But if he does get to protect the Pro Bowler, it will probably be at a different position.

The 21-year-old is projected to play guard for the Colts. At Villanova, he started all 53 games of his four-year career at left tackle.

"I just want to be one of the five offensive linemen," said Ijalana, who's not concerned about the position switch. "If they move you, all you can do is what they tell you to do."

Bill and Chris Polian, the vice chairman and general manager of the Colts, were so impressed with Ijalana they even sent their original second-round pick (No. 53) and a fifth-rounder to the Washington Redskins so they could move up four spots to nab the Rancocas Valley High School product with the 49th overall pick.

"He's plugged in - the question is where, and we'll sort through that," Bill Polian said. "But he's going to play and play early, and we really think he can play both positions. We went up to get him because we felt like he was a first-round player."

The Colts took another offensive lineman, Boston College's Anthony Castonzo, in the first round.

A two-time Football Championship Subdivision all-American, Ijalana hasn't had a problem following instructions. Nor has he had a problem overpowering would-be pass rushers.

"Ben might be the best offensive lineman that ever played at Villanova," Wildcats coach Andy Talley said. "He will be an outstanding professional, who will continue to get better. He has the physical tools and mental approach to be a top-notch NFL lineman."

Said Wildcats offensive line coach Mark Ferrante: "As good as he was for us, I believe his best days are ahead of him. Ben will be a huge success at the next level."

 


Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-7081 or kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pompeysgridlock

The Associated Press contributed to this report.