Pat McAfee has become an incredibly popular player in the city of Indianapolis. Sure, he may be a punter, but his philanthropy, Twitter presence and even his "Boomstick" are what make him such a likeable guy in Indy.
In four short seasons, McAfee has gone from the crazy party guy to the matured, but still very comical, man that he is today. Whether he's golfing at one of the local courses, stopping through Mike's Car Wash (yes, I worked there) or going to the Pacers games, he's always around in Indianapolis.
I had the opportunity to ask McAfee some questions, and the answers that came were truly great.
What makes the Colts organization stand out from the rest of the NFL?
Well, I’ve had the incredible luck to not have to experience any other organizations. I got drafted here and I’ve been here ever since. I don’t know exactly what separates us from other teams but I’d like to think we’re be a pretty good model for how teams are supposed to act towards their fans.
First and foremost, we have a kickass owner. I’m not just saying that because he pays my check and it’s a contract year. I’m saying that because I truly mean it.
In a world where most billionaires are all about talking about taking care of and helping people, Jim Irsay walks it. He’ll send out a tweet or two that judgmental folks question loudly but in the end, he’s a man who has a substantial amount of cash, is ridiculously successful and Colts fans reap the benefits of it.
The guy gives back to the fans mucho, and us players have followed suit. We give away tickets to games, money, merchandise, so many things via social media—not because we have to, nobody tells us to do it, but because we want to.
From the top, to the bottom, we appreciate the hell out of our fans, and I don’t know if all teams genuinely do.
What is the most memorable moment of your career so far with the Colts?
I don’t think I’m at the point where I can tag one particular moment as the most memorable. I’ve been a part of quite a ride. My rookie year, I was spoiled. Came in, we rattled off 14 straight, only lost because we chose to really, made it all the way to the Super Bowl...and lost, obviously.
But in my head I was thinking “This sh** is easy, we’ll be back next year, and we’ll get a ring then." Fast forward a couple years and I was a part of a team that could’ve went completely defeated. Then a complete rebuild, lose all of my friends basically and somehow a younger, unfamiliar family is built and we find our way into the playoffs. You add that with while the new family is being built our leader had to fight off a life threatening disease.
I’ve had a pretty crazy four years. Seeing your coach beat leukemia and returning to the sidelines is amazing. Winning an AFC championship and kicking the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl when you’re 22 is pretty awesome. Befriending Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers is pretty cool, but I’m just enjoying the ride, looking at every day in the NFL as a memorable moment. Because who the hell knows what’s in store for any of us tomorrow?
The Colts have now had back-to-back punters in Hunter Smith and yourself that have been widely popular around the city. Why do you think that is?
Hunter is a guy that I knew would be very tough to follow. Everybody is good in the NFL, so if you’re taking somebody’s position, no matter what the position, it’s going to be tough. That’s just the way it works. Replacing someone sucks. You feel bad about it, especially if the person is an incredible human off the field. And that’s what Hunter Smith is. Hunter was a Colt for a long time and helped a lot of folks in Indiana. For that, every Hoosier, including myself, is thankful. Now it’s my turn to help the Indianapolis Colts on fourth down, and use my pedestal to help out. And I think people appreciate that.
With the news about Coach Pagano and the CHUCKSTRONG movement this past season, what was the atmosphere in the locker room like?
Unless you were in the team meeting the Monday we were told about our coach having leukemia, I don’t think you’d ever understand. We walk in there and everybody in the building is in the meeting room. Instantly everybody starts questioning “What’s up?" Usually it’s only the players in there.
This day, trainers, equipment managers, front office, interns, everybody was in there. We all knew something big was coming. “Who got arrested?”... “You think Mr. Irsay sold the team?”… ‘How the hell am I going to sell my house if we move to LA?” These are all actual statements that were said. Meeting was supposed to start at 8 a.m. 8:01 comes, 8:02…the tardiness fueled our questioning. If a meeting is at 8 with Chuck, it starts at 8.
About 8:04 rolls around and Mr. Irsay, followed by his entire team walks in. Mr Grigson, his daughtersand a couple folks I did not recognize.. “What the hellllllllllll?” I said. Then we hear the news, and all of our hearts dropped. Chuck’s doctor tells us the gameplan, say’s he’s going to beat it and return to the sideline. Bruce Arians gets announced as interim head coach and BA says, “We’re going to work for Chuck, we’re going to leave the light in his office on until he comes back, we’ll break every huddle with Chuck on 3, let’s fight for the guy who’s fighting for his life."
At that moment the entire season changed.. A group of players who didn’t have the chemistry of teams who have been together for 5-10 years all of a sudden had a common goal. And that common goal was to win for a man who we respected and would be fighting for his life. It brought us together, it made us a family and #Chuckstrong made a crap load of cashola to help the folks who saved our coach’s life. It was pretty badass bro.
This year against the Tennessee Titans you had a perfect punt that put the Titans at the one-yard line. Was that something you were planning on doing?
Well, every punt is supposed to turn out that way, haha. Yes.. I planned to do that, it just so happened to work out perfectly. A lot of people think the “Coffin Corner” style of punting is dead. It’s not, it’s just much tougher to do nowadays. It’s easier/safer to just punt the end over end punt straight ahead.
Special teams coaches have gotten smarter since the earlier days of directional punting. When a punter is angling it towards the sideline, he is forced to go a little bit outside of the pocket. So if the other team has a freak athlete who can beat your outside blocker, he has a damn good chance of disrupting the kick.
Directional kicking has a lot to do with the protection these days, a single block has to be able to be made by the “slot” or, to make it easier. The widest guy blocking…we had a great group of dudes that gave me a nice pocket, made my life easy. I just have to punt it where I’m trying to more often. Like that one.
What inspired you to start the Pat McAfee Foundation?
I appreciate our men and women in uniform so much. They are the real heroes. I can’t fathom the selflessness involved in serving our country. The willingness to put their lives on the line to protect our freedom is so admirable to me. Every man or lady I see in their fatigues/uniform, I shake their hand and I thank them for their service. It’s something more Americans should do.
With all that being said, I wanted to come up with a way to thank them, and honor them in a creative manner. So giving scholarships to the children of these heroes is an idea my father, Tim McAfee, and I came up with. We’re still in our first year, we’re giving our first winners their checks here in a couple weeks. But we hope to grow it into a big time operation, because the gift of education is something that can change families lives entirely. Check us out, and feel free to make a donation at www.ThePatMcAfeeFoundation.com
Can you do a better growl than Pat White?
Hahaha. I can’t do anything better than Pat White.. I love that dude. Was an honor to be on his team in college. He was special, and I hope he can do some more damage in the world of football. Just not against the team I’m playing for.
Do you want to play your entire career with the Colts? Do you think it's a possibility?
I’m really happy here. I love our team, I love the city, I love everything about being a Hoosier. But business is business. I work my ass off to be a hot commodity in the NFL. I have a one-year contract here, and I hope by this time next year I can say I have a multi-year deal to stay. But I have no idea, that decision is made by someone who is much more important than I to the Indianapolis Colts.
What are your expectations for the 2013 season?