INDIANAPOLIS – Colts fans have formed emotional bonds with numerous players and coaches during the club's 28-year era in Indianapolis. Some of the strongest bonds formed by fans with players started in 1986, when Bill Brooks joined the team.
Immediately, he was an impact player. Brooks snared 65 passes for 1,131 yards and eight touchdowns during his rookie season, and he did not slow down at any point during his career.
Brooks was studious as soon as he entered the club's facility as a rookie. His approach helped ensure he would get on the field quickly. Hard work and preparation was not a goal of his, it had been the approach his whole life. When looking back at his career now, he talks about how he wanted to perform on the field.
"I wanted to be the type of player that my teammates could count on. I went out there and played hard. Every time I stepped on the field, whether it was practice or in a game, I wanted them to know I was giving 100 percent and my teammates, coaches and the organization could count on me when I went out there and played. That's the type of player I wanted to be. If I was that, you'll have to ask my teammates," Brooks said. "I just wanted to play hard every day. I didn't think I was the most talented player out there. I just thought I had to work hard to hopefully do what I could to help the team, whether it was running routes to get other people open or block. That's what I wanted to do because we had a lot of talented people on the team. I just wanted to do the best I could out there to help them succeed."
Lessons for success came from veteran players as Brooks started his Colts career. He learned from veterans like Matt Bouza when he arrived and then he contributed on a regular basis. As the years progressed, he passed on veteran tips to younger Colts players to help them succeed. In addition to Bouza, during his career Brooks played alongside other talented wide receivers like Jessie Hester and Reggie Langhorne. He remembers those teammates fondly.
"They were all great guys. Each of them was totally different in their playing style and personality. Matt Bouza was the guy that was a possession receiver. He would run good routes, get open, show the quarterback his numbers and make sure he was in the right spot all the time. He was a tough individual, very helpful. He's the one that really helped me when I first got in the league. He was already here with the Colts and showed me, along with (receivers coach) Chip Myers, what to do, what not to do, what to look for, and he showed me some tricks as well. He was definitely a 'Pro's pro.'
"Reggie Langhorne (was) a different kind of receiver. He was a fun guy. He liked to have fun off the field but when it came time to play, he was ready to play. He was a very physical, big receiver. He pushed defensive backs out of the way and wasn't afraid to use his size to benefit him in catching the ball and running routes. So he was a very physical receiver and a great teammate.
"Jessie Hester was a deceptive receiver. Jessie might not have looked like he was running fast, but Jessie was covering a lot of ground. The one thing I remember about Jessie was he had a good knack for creating separation from his defensive back, meeting at the top of his route and creating separation, which gives the quarterback a good window to throw the ball in. Jessie had been around the league a little while and used this to develop his knack for separating from the defender. He did a really good job. Jessie was one of those guys who was quiet and didn't say a lot, but would just go out there and play hard. All three of those guys were great teammates, and I enjoyed all of them."
Players like Brooks are in the league long enough to have great moments on the field and to form friendships off it. For Brooks, his comrades meant more than any performance of his career. When pushed, however, to cite a particular game that meant a great deal to him, Brooks nodded to Halloween Night, 1988 when the Colts hosted Denver. It was the first-ever Monday Night Football outing for the city of Indianapolis, a moment of intense civic pride. Fans were festive, a nation watched and the club excelled with a 55-23 victory. Brooks did his part with a 53-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Gary Hogeboom out of the wishbone offense.
"There have been a couple of games that we won that were memorable, but I would say the Broncos game on Monday Night here at the Hoosier Dome (in 1988) was a pretty memorable victory that we had. Everyone played well. It seemed liked everyone was contributing. We were going on all cylinders. It was a good game," he said. "So, I would say the Broncos game was probably the one that I will remember the most. I do remember catching the touchdown (in that game). The ball was thrown up and I had to go up and catch it and once I did catch it, a couple Broncos surrounded me. I was trying my best to get some extra yards and they happened to run into each other and I went down the sideline and scored. That was probably one of our most memorable moments as far as victories are concerned with the Colts on Monday Night against the Denver Broncos."
One of the club's memorable games in 1990 provided a moment for Brooks that happened accidently. Trailing the Eagles, 23-17, with 1:56 remaining, Indianapolis had one last possession. Quarterback Jack Trudeau guided the club downfield, a march that was 14 plays and covered 82 yards. The final snap came from the Eagles' six-yard line. Trudeau spotted Brooks across the goal-line and rifled a pass to him for the game-tying score at the gun. Thinking the score settled the game, Brooks ran the length of the field and into the locker room not realizing the score was only tied. Dean Biasucci's point after attempt won the game, a moment Brooks looks back on with a shake of his head.
"It was a drive at the end of the game and we were down some points. We needed to go down and score and kick the extra point to win the game. We were driving pretty well down there. We were moving the ball. Jack (Trudeau) was hitting a good number of receivers, and we kept on moving the ball down the field. It came to the last play. We had called a timeout before that, and Jack had called my number. I had a feeling Jack was going to go to me. He threw the ball right in my gut, and I caught it in the end zone right across the goal line. I prematurely thought we had won and ran off the field, something that was out of my character, but I thought we had won. However, we still needed to kick the extra point. I was confident in the field goal kicker, but I should never have run off the field. Thank God he kicked it and made it and we won the game."