AFC South Secret Stars: Antoine Bethea Deserves Recognition

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistAugust 3, 2012

You can't see his face because he's too busy making a tackle.
You can't see his face because he's too busy making a tackle.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As we peruse the AFC South for the most overlooked and underappreciated players, we settle on perhaps the definition of the type in Antoine Bethea of the Indianapolis Colts.

While he has been to the Pro Bowl, there were no such postseason accolades for the veteran safety last year. How could there be for a man anchoring possibly the worst secondary in football?

Of course, without the steady and often brilliant play of Bethea, the 2011 Colts could have been one of the worst secondaries in history. Bethea single-highhandedly helped the defense be terrible instead of historically bad.

Bethea spent the early part of his career in the shadows of his more renowned teammate, Bob Sanders. Whereas Sanders could never stay on the field, Bethea can't be pried away from it, having made every start at safety for the past four years.

Whether it was making savage tackles on the goal line or cleaning up the messes left behind by a painfully young cornerback unit, Bethea did a little bit of everything for the Colts last year.

He's already earned status as a classic Colt in the mold of long-time safety Jason Belser, who patrolled the secondary in Indy in the late 1990s.

Bethea deserves better support, and he sees Chuck Pagano's defense as his ticket to true stardom.

"I'm extremely excited, just being able to see what those guys (Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu) have done in their career in a system that's similar. You know I'm just trying to watch as much film as I can and see what I can pick up from those guys. Coach Pagano being a defensive-minded coach, being a DB coach in the past—you know I'm extremely excited to see what I can do."

With two Pro Bowl nods and a Super Bowl ring in his pocket, it's easy to argue that Bethea has achieved more than most pros, but for the heart and soul of the Indianapolis defense, there's still one more thing to achieve.

Recognition.

 

Quote obtained by the reporter.

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