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Sierra grad gets his shot in NFL
Undrafted K-State standout Malone signs with Colts
Sierra High alumnus Nigel Malone starred at nationally-ranked Kansas State for two years and signed a free-agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. - photo by Photo courtesy of K-State Athletics Communications

Nigel Malone has received an NFL audition.

The former Sierra High and Kansas State cornerback signed an undrafted free-agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts, who have gone to great lengths to upgrade one of the NFL’s worst secondaries.

The Colts ranked 21st against the pass and 26th overall, giving up nearly 237 yards per game.

The makeover began with the acquisition of Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry and could continue with the addition of Malone, an aggressive cornerback who thrived in a quarterback-rich conference.

At the very least, one of the Big 12’s top ball-hawking corners will get to showcase his talents for an NFL crowd.

“Thank you to everybody for the support and best wishes happy to be a Colt,” Malone tweeted late Sunday night.

The news was met with pride back home. Malone joins a small fraternity of local players to reach the NFL level, including Paul Wiggins, Armando Avina and Don Morgan.

“It’s a testament to the hard work Nigel put in in high school to junior college and through Kansas State University,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “He’s always been focused on the big goal.

Said Manteca coach Eric Reis: “Even to look at his bio and see ‘Manteca’ on there, it’s good to see the city have somebody who can do it. It’s been awhile. People don’t realize how hard it is.”

A transfer out of City College of San Francisco, where he won a Northern California championship, Malone enjoyed an All-American career in Manhattan, Kan.

He recorded 12 interceptions in two seasons, including seven in 2011. He was named the Big 12’s co-Defensive Newcomer of the Year by ESPN, a Jim Thorpe Award finalist and appeared on just about everyone’s All-American list.

Malone was a:

• Second-team Walter Camp All-American;

• third-team Associated Press All-American;

• third-team Phil Steele All-American;

• and an honorable mention by Sports Illustrated.

In 2012, Malone was a candidate for the Walter Camp and Thorpe awards, as well as the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. He was also an All-American and Big 12 candidate.

“That’s why he chose to go to San Francisco city college over Delta or (Modesto Junior College). I remember taking him to Delta College’s orientation. On the way there, he made up his mind that City was where he’d go,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said. “It was their competition and better chance at being seen and recognized for what he can do.”

Malone was considered an underrated prospect by NFL Draft Director and Senior Writer Clint Clearwarter of

Wrote Clearwater: “Very impressive instincts.  Keeps his eyes on the QB when in coverage while knowing where the WR is.  Great awareness; shows a good ability to read and recognize plays. … Has a very quick reaction time on the run and the pass. Shows quick feet and is aggressive to make the tackle. Makes a good break when the ball is in the air and uses his hands effectively to break up passes.  …  Has soft hands, able to make INTs and can be a playmaker on defense.  Even though he is undersized, he can be physical.  He is a good blitzer, breaks down in the backfield so he doesn’t get juked out. Pretty good tackler. Plays faster than his 40 time will suggest.  Leader.”

Clearwater also realizes why Malone may have gone undrafted. He possesses average size (5-foot-10 and 180 pounds) and speed (4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash) at a position that is getting bigger and faster by the year.

Still, he thinks the Colts have landed themselves a gem in the free-agent pool.

“He’s not the biggest DB, probably won’t run a very fast 40, and doesn’t get a lot of publicity but he’s a very good football player,” he wrote. “He has very impressive instincts and awareness that make him a dangerous CB and his ability to read plays and make INTs is special.”

Harbison believes Sierra’s career leader in interceptions won’t be overwhelmed by the speed and physicality of the NFL game.

In fact, he believes Malone will flourish in a show-and-prove environment.

“I think Nigel will succeed at whatever he puts his mind to,” Harbison said. “He’s a competitor – always has been. He’s got a great nose for the football. I think we’ll see good things from him.”