Colts add versatile Wisconsin OL Bortolini in fourth round

Apr. 27—INDIANAPOLIS — Tanor Bortolini is no stranger to great expectations on the offensive line.

He made 35 starts at five different positions for Wisconsin. Four of those spots came on the offensive line, an area where the Badgers have excelled for decades before the 6-foot-4, 303-pounder was born.

"I think it's just the culture that's been instilled throughout each generation of linemen that have come through," Bortolini said. "You look back at that wall, and there's really great players that have been coming out of there for the last 40 years. So just to be a part of that, for one, is huge. I take great pride in that. And with that comes responsibility. You have to be willing to step up, put the work, time and effort in to hold that standard.

"But I think that the standard that those guys set all that time ago is passed down. You get to work with the class two years younger than you, and they kind of pass down what it takes to succeed, what it takes to be great. And I think it's just something that's carried on throughout all these years, and I think that's why it has the tradition and history that it does."

Bortolini joins an Indianapolis Colts offensive line coming off a strong bounce back season with all five starters returning.

Indianapolis also drafted Pitt offensive lineman Matt Goncalves in the third round, so it will be a crowded — and competitive — room this spring.

Bortolini is expected to compete at all three interior positions — left guard, center and right guard — this spring and projects as a possible starting center down the road.

He made 13 starts at center, eight at left guard, three at right guard, three at right tackle and one at tight end for the Badgers.

And he believes versatility will be a strength as he enters the NFL as the 117th overall pick in the fourth round.

"It started off by learning center, and that was a really big thing for me," Bortolini said. "If I learn center, I'm able to know what everyone has to do on every play. So that put me in a position to be able to swing around like that. And then playing small-school football allowed me to get a lot of athleticism, coordination-wise, so I felt comfortable flipping stances.

"It's obviously something you have to get used to, but it's something I felt like the older I got, the more comfortable I felt going back and forth. It's a little different, obviously, the little ins and outs to each one. But the more I did it, the more confident I felt in that ability, and I think it's something that is really gonna prove valuable at the next level."

Bortolini hails from Kewaunee, Wisconsin, a town of 2,800 on the shores of Lake Michigan, and he's never forgotten those roots.

His draft party Saturday was intimate, with only immediate family in attendance. But a much bigger gathering was scheduled for the evening, and the lineman planned to share his gratitude with everyone who aided his journey to the pros.

"We have a little thing set up for later where I get to come thank everyone who's been a part of it," Bortolini said. "I come from a really small town, so there's a lot of people that really helped along the way. So I want to make sure I can say thank you to them all."

As for the future on the field, Bortolini is excited to join a veteran offensive line and earn his role.

He said the Colts are getting a hard-working player who will not shy away from the big stage.

"I think right now I get to be a versatile swing guy, whatever they need me to be," Bortolini said. "I feel like anywhere on the interior, I'm very capable of playing and playing at a high level. Whatever they see for the long-term plan for me, I'm more than excited to be a part of, and I think I can really be a guy that finds a lot of long-term success and can really solidify myself in one of those starting jobs, that can do it and do it at a high level."