INDIANAPOLIS – The career of Chris Hinton with the Indianapolis Colts is one that almost any player would love to accomplish.
Hinton played seven seasons while wearing the horseshoe. He dignified one of the most recognized logos in American sports by playing to an elite level on an annual basis. Hinton's seven-season run with the Colts yielded six Pro Bowl nominations, along with near-annual All-NFL and All-Conference honors. He started 92 of 94 games with the Colts and helped anchor a line that allowed the club to post solid seasons through most of his tenure. In all, he opened 172 of 177 games in a 13-year career with three teams. He did it with a passion on the field and personality off it that teammates appreciated.
Along the way, Hinton noticed his surroundings. The Chicago native remembered how the fans in Indianapolis responded to the club when it hit town.
"It was fresh. … To go from a core, die-hard fan base, but not a large fan base, (and) come to Indianapolis and it was just a small, and being from Chicago I say small, Midwestern city, but it was just real wholesome and real fresh," said Hinton. "People were just really excited about being Colts fans. It was just fun to go around the city and people recognize you and people appreciate what you were doing."
Colts fans appreciated the efforts Hinton made on the field. While the majority of fans might have lost track of Hinton as he closed his career with Atlanta (still his residence) and Minnesota, those in Lucas Oil Stadium can see his name on the facade as a member of the Colts Ring of Honor. Hinton was inducted in the Ring of Honor in 2001, and the group includes on-field performers in quarterback Jim Harbaugh and wide receiver Bill Brooks.
Hinton recalls in an instant how it felt to receive the Ring of Honor citation.
"Being inducted it seems like it was just yesterday and to think it was 11 years ago," he said. "It was very special to me because for me it validated my time playing for the Colts as being productive years. To have kids who have never seen me play to bring them back to Indianapolis every year, go to a game and show them that my name is up there, that's pretty cool. Even here in Atlanta to have customers who for whatever reason have relatives in Indianapolis or to go to a game and say, 'Oh man, I saw your name in the stadium.' Not a lot of people can say that. It was a very special weekend, and I'm always grateful and thankful to Jim Irsay for including me in something very special."
Always a person to finish something he started, Hinton earned his degree at Northwestern. Though he departed the Colts to end his career, Hinton notes his lineage collegiately and professionally.
"I'm a Colts fan," said Hinton. "For them to have the success that they had, and I mean I was doing well in that Northwestern was playing some competitive football, my alma mater, and to have the Colts, my family members and everybody are Colts fans. To have a Super Bowl win and some successful years was pretty cool."
Hinton's post-playing years have continued to afford him successes. He is involved actively with his family in the Atlanta area.
"I'm a father of three and have a 23-year old daughter, Caris, who was born right there at St. Vincent's Hospital. I'm re-married to Mya and we have two boys, Myles and Christopher, who are going to be big, ole boys," said Hinton. "Basically, I spend my time in my second career being a proprietor of two wine stores, retail wine shops enjoying the travel aspect of it and the flexibility to be able to coach youth football. This will be my third year of coaching youth football and just enjoying spending time with my family. That is my life."
Hinton always appreciated his surroundings, including his time in Indianapolis. He has an affinity for Colts fans, along with a message.
"I would say, 'Do what you do.' As far as during the up and down years, they have been pretty steady as far as being supportive of the team. I know as a former player, I was always thankful. Enjoy the ride."
He does not stop with a message to fans. Being involved in coaching youth football has given him a perspective he wants to share with young professional players.
"Appreciate the game, respect the game and make a difference. Make a difference in people's lives, which you can do. That is the thing that, even to this day being around kids, you don't realize how influential you are and how much it means to kids to be around a professional athlete and to talk to one. I think that is something that sometimes, as a 22-year old rookie, you don't grasp. I guess the big thing is respect the game and reach back and help people."