INDIANAPOLIS – Rick Venturi is known by long-timers with the Colts as one of the more compelling personalities to serve with the team, along with being a solid coach.
Venturi joined the Colts in 1982 after a collegiate coaching career with Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern. He moved with the team to Indianapolis and remained on staff through 1993. After leaving the club, he coached with Cleveland for two years and New Orleans for decade before finishing with a three-year stint with St. Louis. His career ended in 2008, after 27 seasons.
Back in Indianapolis covering Super Bowl XLVI for a St. Louis radio station, Venturi went down memory lane on the Colts and a city that remains dear to him.
"The Colts were my first start in the NFL," said Venturi. "I came out of college and I was in awe of it, and I loved every minute of it. I had 12 great years, two in Baltimore and 10 in Indianapolis. Indianapolis became home. It was where I raised my family, where my kids went to high school. My son, Jason, finished at Butler and still lives here. I'm here every other weekend to see him and my grandkids. Indianapolis never has gone away from me."
Venturi was one of the longest-tenured coaches in franchise history. He saw seasons of struggle and triumph while performing many tasks.
"I loved my relationships over the years," said Venturi. "I wore probably every hat in the building, from entry-level assistant, to defensive coordinator to interim head coach. I did a little bit of everything. I helped packed the blackboards when the team moved to Indianapolis. I literally helped pack for the move."
His early years in Indianapolis were spent with noteworthy linebackers like Johnie Cooks, Barry Krauss, Cliff Odom, Jeff Herrod and Duane Bickett. He coached them up, and they played, and Venturi recalled one season when the team hit some high notes.
"I really had some good players while I was here," said Venturi. "I started with Barry Krauss when we were in Baltimore. He had a really, really good career. We drafted Duane Bickett our first year here, and he ended up making the Pro Bowl. Cliff Odom was one of my favorite players. Jeff Herrod was one of my all-time favorites. I went down to the University of Mississippi and looked at him. We took him in the ninth round and he went from kind of an after-thought guy to one of the best players in the league. Those were the guys I worked with at linebacker.
"I loved the year we kind of turned things around when we made the (Eric) Dickerson trade (1987) and got everything going that year. Working with (Defensive Coordinator) George Hill and (Secondary Coach) George Catavolos, we had the stingiest defense in the league that year. We went from not a very good team to a good team. For that year, in 1987, and we got the 'Indianapolis' Colts in the playoffs for the first time. That was a fun time. Everything came together. We were on another level."
Venturi took over as interim head coach six games into the 1991 season when Ron Meyer was released. It was a tough year with an injury-riddled team that ended up with a 1-15 record. It was an uphill fight being put in the position, but Venturi remembers the fight, as well as staying with the club when Ted Marchibroda was hired in 1992.
"Even though we didn't win games, it was one of the most exhilarating times," said Venturi. "We were up against it, no doubt about it, but I loved it. The game we won over the Jets in New York (28-27) was a memorable, memorable game. I was one of the few guys who actually succeed himself (in 1992) and stay on the staff."
Check back with Colts.com for part two of the visit with Rick Venturi.