A familiar face found himself back home again in Indiana today.
Long-time Colt and Pro Bowl Center Jeff Saturday returned to Indianapolis to sign a ceremonial contract with the Colts so that he could retire a member of the franchise that once scooped him off the undrafted scrap heap.
Saturday's meaning and importance to the franchise has been covered at length, but today's ceremony said something about the future as well as the past.
Owner Jim Irsay announced that the ceremony would be the first of several honors for Saturday, and that he would begin a new position with the team.
When I think about Jeff I think about one of the greatest success stories in the National Football League. Of course he will be going into the Ring of Honor. Just to see him healthy, back in Indianapolis, for the franchise he’s getting used to retirement.
He’s going to be involved with media relations, an ambassador for the franchise and we’ll see where it goes from there. He may have an interest eventually in coaching, may have an interest in even becoming a general manager but right now I’m going to sign this contract and let Jeff come up and sign his portion so we can make it official that Jeff is a Colt today.
After thanking family and friends, Saturday reflected on one of the most important things he offers a franchise packed with young players: the experience of having played with Peyton Manning.
I like to tell people I rode his coattails for a long time. He is an incredible teammate. He’s probably, not probably, one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever been around. In fact, my experience in Green Bay gave me even more insight to how special he is as a player, and as a teammate. I really enjoyed my time with him.
We used to call him ‘Coach Manning’ and used to bust him up about how hard he worked. He showed up early. He left late. He led by example. He never expected you to give anything that he wasn’t going to give himself. The relationship between a center and a quarterback is special. We loved each other but we could fight each other as well. We could bump heads and there was always a mutual respect. It never got any further than that. It was always on the field.
Off the field, we were friends. He’s taken me to places and given me gifts and allowed me to do things that I would never have the opportunity to do. But that’s what he does. He gives out of his heart. He knows when it means something to somebody. He’s one of the most giving guys in that way. He’s truly a special player.
Having someone like Saturday involved with a franchise is important, because while a young Andrew Luck is undeniably gifted and certainly shows all the intangibles necessary to become a great quarterback, he'll need to continue to grow into the kind of worker and leader that Manning is if he hopes to reach his full potential.
Saturday offers the team one more voice from the past who, along with Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis, can push young players to live up to the lofty standards they and Manning set together.
Saturday is still hazy on the details of his new position but loves the qualities of the organization, saying,
I’m a Colt. I love representing this organization. This organization is what I hope all the NFL teams strive to be. In every negotiation I was involved with the PA (players association) and the NFL, I used us (the Colts) as an example of what you should strive to and I make no bones about it.
This organization is the best in the business and it will continue. I watched what they did last year all the time and I’m excited about it. I’ve had the opportunity to meet (Andrew) Luck and some of the guys that I have relationships with anyway. It’s incredible. This train is just starting to get rolling. I’m excited to keep on the journey and keep rolling as a Colt.
While his ultimate role is yet to be nailed down, the experience, insight and high character he brings to the team will surely be invaluable.
All quotes courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR department via direct press release.