Colts TE Santi Ready for Second NFL Season
INDIANAPOLIS – Tom Santi didn't expect his rookie season to be easy, exactly.
Then again, he didn't quite expect it to be quite so tough.
Santi, a tight end and sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, played a key role at times times for the Colts as a rookie, but he also sustained two key injuries. One kept him out during most of training camp, and the other ended his season far earlier than he hoped.
The experience, he said, gave him perspective.
And he said that can't hurt entering his second season.
"Anybody's first year is difficult," Santi said during the Colts' recent offseason conditioning program at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"I look at these guys who came in this year. When they first got here, they were asking how to get to the locker room, so there's a lot of stuff beyond the football stuff."
Santi, who played collegiately at the University of Virginia, underwent surgery to repair an infected bursa sack shortly before training camp last season. That kept him out of not only camp, but the preseason and regular-season opener.
"That set me back a little bit," he said.
He played six games, then sustained a shoulder injury. On November 19, the Colts placed him on injured reserve, but he said although his rookie season wasn't quite what he had hoped, he is optimistic about his second season.
That's because he has had an entire offseason to prepare, has worked in the Colts' offseason conditioning program and organized team activities, and he expects to be 100 percent entering training camp.
"I'm looking forward to starting with a little bit more of a foundation this year," Santi said.
Even without the foundation he wanted, Santi he believed he made progress as a rookie. He played in six games, starting two, and caught 10 passes for 64 yards.
If it weren't an extended stint, Santi said it at least was enough to allow him to know what to expect entering next season.
"The scope of things that you have to give your mental energy to just kind of shrinks in that second year," Santi said. "You're more familiar with your surroundings, and that's not a variable anymore. You know the people who you're working with. You have developed a relationship. You can trust them. That's a big thing – knowing the guys you're playing with.
"If you don't, and you're not on the same page, you can't play fast. I think that's one of the biggest things that will be a big difference this year."
Santi also said he played enough to know he has the ability to play in the NFL.
"I started feeling that way when I played in my first preseason game," he said. "I was not even 100 percent, but just being in there and being where it's full speed, 100 percent – it's good to have that experience under the belt because you know you can do it."
Santi's biggest moment of his rookie season came in his third game. This was a Week 4 victory over Houston, and with 4:04 remaining, he caught a 7-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal from Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. The touchdown pulled the Colts to within 10 points, 27-17, and Santi said he thought at the time it meant little in terms of the game's outcome.
But less than 30 seconds later, Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett returned a fumble 68 yards for a touchdown, and a minute and a half after that, Manning threw a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne to complete one of the biggest comebacks in franchise history.
"At the time, we were losing by 17 points," Santi said. "Usually, when you score down by 17 with that little time left, it's just a little extra on the side. But that really ended up being big for us. That just kind of started us. Other guys stepped up and made some big-time plays. It turned out to be a really awesome thing, because I got to be part of a big comeback like that."
Santi also said it reinforced a lesson he already knew:
That a game isn't over until it's over.
"I've never been one to give up on a game," he said. "If we're down by 40, I'm still going to be doing the same thing I was on Play One, but that really will teach you that anything can happen in the NFL. I remember when I came in the locker room Mr. (Colts President Bill) Polian said that. He said, 'Anything can happen in this league.' That's obviously a big example of it.
"You never know when it's going to be your time and what kind of impact it can be."
As far as this season's impact, Santi said he hasn't yet concrete goals. His idea, he said, has been to get to a place where he can contribute and if that happens, he said the goals can be achieved.
"Really, it's been a case of getting back to getting healthy," he said. "I've been getting back on track, and that has been the focus right now. That's just giving yourself a chance to be successful. I've got to get to that point first, but I want to be a big contributor to this team.
"I think I was drafted to play inside a little bit more, but I was excited to be able to show I can do both. I always have in the past, and last year in the Minnesota game, when Dallas (Clark) was out with a knee, I was split out for the majority of that game. I don't want to limit myself. I've always tried to do as much as I can.
"It just goes back to, 'Whenever your number is called, you have to be ready to do it.' I try to be prepared to do as much as I can."