Allow me to be Verne Lundquist for a moment. If you’ve ever watched a CBS College Football game on Saturday afternoon, you know what I’m talking about. If not, Verne Lundquist is what I call the King of Hard-luck stories. He finds the most disastrous story about one of the players in the game and milks it for all it’s worth for the next three and a half hours. In any case………
These are my boys. I swear I would be the best Team Mom for the Colts. They’d probably all be really fat and unable to play because I’d just keep baking them cookies, cakes, and pies and really fatty southern food, but hey…they’d love me. 🙂 I’ve often wondered if such a position exists and if so, how on earth do I apply for that job. I would love to take care of the rookies and help get them oriented to their new surroundings before they get their welcome to the NFL moment. Of course I’d baby them and they’d never grow up, but who cares…I’d be so good at it. In the course of these gentlemen becoming “my boys,” I’ve learned quite a bit about them. Some of them I know their statistics, some of them I know their background and how they got to the NFL, and some of them I know both of those things about them.
Take, for instance, Gary Brackett: he’s a linebacker from Rutgers, but has the cutest, most pinchable cheeks I’ve ever seen on a grown man. He had 123 total tackles this season, 72 of them were solo. But what you might not know about him is that he lost his father, mother, and brother to three different medical problems all in a 16 month span starting at the end of 2003. He dedicates a lot of his playing to them and just keeps going.
Take, for instance, Dallas Clark: he’s a tight end from Iowa who has one of the best smiles I’ve ever seen. I’ve taken to calling him my baby boy because I just love him. I fell apart when he hit the ground in the Philly game with what they thought was a torn ACL. Turns out it was a partial tear that has healed itself enough for him to be the biggest producers for the Colts in the postseason. He leads the league in receiving yards for the postseason. That has never happened in his career (regular season or otherwise). But his is of a different story. The week of his high school graduation, his mother died of a sudden heart attack. He competed in a district track meet a few days after her death. He played defense in high school, but his college coach moved him to tight end. This was after he walked on to the team and didn’t receive a scholarship until his junior year. Prior to the scholarship he worked his way through college working for the grounds crew of the Iowa Hawkeye’s stadium. And he worked on that grounds crew like his life depended on it being so incredibly proud of the patch of grass near the 20 yard line that he was responsible for. After being granted a scholarship, he started all 13 games as he helped lead Iowa to its first undefeated conference season in 80 years. His biggest game came against Purdue where on his first touchdown he broke a tackle and raced 95 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest pass play in Kinnick Stadium history and the second longest in school history. His second touchdown came with Iowa down 28-24, he caught a seven yard pass on fourth and goal to give Iowa a 31-28 win. He was a consensus first team All-American. He won the John Mackey Award for the country’s best tight end after that season. He left Iowa with 1,281 career receiving yards in just two years at the tight end position. All this from a kid who lost his mom the week before he graduated from high school. His wristbands every Sunday have “MOM” written on them.
Take, for instance, Jeff Saturday: he the Pro Bowl center from North Carolina who wasn’t drafted. He signed as a free agent with Baltimore in 1998 who waived him less than 2 months later. He was prepared at that point to enter the Arena league and play one season as a way to say goodbye to the sport he loved so much. He was preparing to go into the electrical sales business after that. Then the Colts called 7 months after he was waived by Baltimore and asked him to help protect Peyton Manning. This month he not only takes his Offensive Line that leads the league in fewest sacks given up into the Super Bowl, but he and his left tackle buddy Tarik Glenn are going to the Pro-Bowl. This will be Jeff’s second Pro Bowl of his career. Just 9 years ago he thought he was going to be an electrical salesman.
Take, for instance, Bryan Fletcher: he’s a tight end from UCLA who saw a good amount of action while Dallas Clark was out with his knee injury. Bryan’s stat on the roster lists him as having 2 years of NFL experience. What you don’t know is his patient journey before those 2 years. He was a 6th round pick by Chicago in the 2002 draft. He was waived by them 4 months after the draft. He went to the practice squad for Tennessee a week later and was waived by Tennessee a week after that. Three months later, Chicago asked him back for their practice squad and was signed as a free agent with them the next month only to be allocated to NFL Europe. Seven months later, he was waived by Chicago, again. Five months later, the Colts signed him as a free agent and allocated him to NFL Europe, again. Since September of 2004 he has been waived and signed to the practice squad twice only to be finally signed as a free agent by the Colts in January of 2005, which brings us to the present. Peyton loves him as he says Bryan is the kind of guy who just catches Touchdowns. He held on, and worked his behind off to make others realize just what an asset he could be to their team. And the Colts finally noticed. Patience (and a little hard work) is indeed a virtue.
Take, for instance, Anthony “Booger” McFarland: he’s a defensive tackle from LSU who was originally a first round draft pick of Tampa Bay in the 1999 draft. Earlier this season before the trade deadline, Tampa considered him washed up and not performing well enough for their team. He was traded to the Colts in October and has helped keep the defense steady and working hard to produce the way they have in the postseason. I’ve often wondered this season just how bad the run defense would have been if Booger wasn’t there. He found new life for his career on the Colts team and has helped them with his leadership and experience (he already has a Super Bowl ring). Thanks, Tampa for putting him out to pasture.
Take, for instance, Nick Harper: he’s a defensive back from Ft. Valley State who darn near ruined the Steelers’ postseason quest last year. Jerome Bettis fumbled near the goal line and Nick Harper picked the ball up and started running the other way. Ben Roethlisberger made a shoestring tackle to stop him. The ensuing drive led to a missed field goal by Mike Vanderjagt, which ended the game and sent the Steelers to the AFC championship and eventually the Super Bowl. The week before that playoff game, Nick Harper had a heated argument with his wife in the kitchen of their home. She pulled a knife on him and stabbed him in the leg. So it’s not a happy story or a situation that I condone in any way, shape, or form, but it happened nonetheless. I’ve often wondered what might have happened during his run back of the fumble had his knee not been sliced open by his wife. By the way, they’re still married.
Take, for instance, Terrence Wilkins: he’s listed as a wide receiver from Virginia, but he’s our return specialist on special teams. At the game I attended in September, he returned a punt for a touchdown. His career is similar to that of Bryan Fletcher. He started with the Colts as a free agent in April 1999. He played 3 seasons with us before being traded to St. Louis. He played one season with St. Louis, then signed with Carolina where he was placed on injured reserve almost immediately. He re-signed as a free agent with the Colts a few months later and a few months after that signed as an unrestricted free agent with Miami. He was waived by Miami in August 2004. A year later he signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League and less than a year after that, he signed as a free agent with the Colts. He has had a stellar season on special teams (despite a couple of fumbles), but he has an uncanny ability to put us in fantastic field position.
Take, for instance, Reggie Wayne: he’s a wide receiver from Miami. His brother died in a car accident in September and I still get this little pang every time I think about it. He never missed a game even with funeral arrangements and the actual funeral. He dedicated his season to Rashad and this year after 6 years in the league behind, arguably, the best receiver in the league (possibly ever) he is going to the Pro Bowl. On any other team, Reggie is the #1 receiver. On the Colts he plays the left side of the formation while Marvin Harrison plays the right side, but Peyton uses him as if he’s his #1 option. Of course Peyton uses all his wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs as his #1 option at some point in the game. In the AFC Championship game, Reggie nearly lost the ball on the game winning drive. It squirted up into the air, and came back down in his hands. I could only imagine that Rashad was right there next to him in spirit forcing that ball back into Reggie’s hands.
Take, for instance, Joseph Addai: he’s a running back from LSU. He’s played nearly every producing position on offense at some point in his football career, but at LSU he never saw a season over 1,000 yards. He was our first round draft pick in the 2006 draft and he has split time on the field with Dominic Rhodes for every game of the season. There was a large running back class from the 2006 draft that started immediately on their respective teams. Joseph is the only rookie drafted running back playing in the Super Bowl and the only one with over a 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season that didn’t start any of the 16 regular season games.
Take, for instance, Montae Reagor, Mike Doss, Brandon Stokley, Corey Simon, and James Mungro: these are our starters on injured reserve. Montae Reagor was injured in a car accident before the Redskins game. Mike Doss tore his ACL in the Redskins game. Corey Simon hasn’t played a game all season due to a non-football related injury (rumor has it it is some kind of arthritis that affects multiple joints). James Mungro tore his ACL before the season started leaving the offense with no option at fullback. Brandon Stokley (who is much smaller in person than I expected) ruptured his Achilles during the second Jacksonville game of the season without anyone touching him. This was after his season had already been bombarded with knee injuries that kept him out of all but three games before that game. These are the guys who are in Miami wearing their jerseys but not getting to play with their team. These are the sideline cheerleaders helping in whatever way they can. These are the guys who feel more than the pain of their injuries. They’re feeling the pain of not getting to help their team on the field.
These are my boys. Every last one of them has a story, but these are just a few of the more detailed ones. Every last one of them works hard to help the Colts win games. Every last one of them is going to play their heart out on Sunday night to help bring a Super Bowl to Indianapolis for the first time ever and I’m going to be proud of all of them. And, yes, every last one of them has flaws because no one is perfect, but for the men that they are and are not…that’s what makes them my boys.