INDIANAPOLIS --- Five current Colts were teammates in Indianapolis with former center Jeff Saturday, who will be inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium - kicker Adam Vinatieri, punter Pat McAfee, outside linebacker Robert Mathis, tackle Anthony Castonzo, and guard/tackle Joe Reitz.
"To me, he's one of those all-time Colts guys. You put him up there with anybody," said Reitz Friday. "Especially for me, I was a young offensive lineman, practice squad. He taught me the ropes, but what I appreciated was he always treated me like one of the guys."
Reitz remembers his very first day as a Colt on that practice squad. It was a Friday. That was the day the veteran offensive linemen would all go out to lunch. Saturday made sure to bring Reitz with him in his car, since Reitz didn't even have one yet and give him a ride home.
That's just one of the many fond memories his old teammates that are still around have of Jeff Saturday. Those memories extend to much more serious times as well, when Saturday's leadership went to the next level.
"He was in direct negotiations with the owners, making sure we had a season, trying to nail out the best deal that we could," said Vinatieri, of Saturday also serving on the NFL Players Association Executive Committee, helping avoid a work stoppage during the regular season when the 2011 lockout took place. "He did a great job. He's such a great leader on and off the field."
When a new collective bargaining agreement was reached, Saturday returned to his locker room, where he found 1st round rookie offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo.
"Just watching him, you looked at the way he went about his business every day," said Castonzo about his rookie season with Jeff Saturday in 2011, Saturday's 13th and final season in a Colts uniform, before finishing up his career in Green Bay. "He let me know what it takes to be in the NFL. Even though he'd been in the league so long, in meetings he'd still give 100%. It was cool to have a leader like that my rookie year."
Saturday emulated leadership, and that extended beyond his position group, resonating to this day.
"In the locker room, whenever you're young, you come in and you don't really know what to expect. Then you see these amazing blue eyes and a guy with a big burly beard," said McAfee Monday. "Everytime he opened his mouth there was nothing but great leadership and guidance, not only about football but life really. Jeff is a great friend, a great man, and I was very luck to be teammates with him. It's only right that he's going into the Ring of Honor."
A Super Bowl champion snapping to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time...not bad for a guy that went undrafted.
"A huge heart and one of the smartest guys I know," said Vinatieri on what made Saturday successful despite not hearing his name in the draft "When Peyton was running the offense, he was the guy leading the line and calling out the protections and stuff. Everybody gives credit to Peyton and all the other guys, but our success was very, very pivotal on his success as well."
But you cannot describe Jeff Saturday's Ring of Honor career by simply reciting his on-field accomplishments.
"What a great football player and a great person for Indiana and Indianapolis in general. He did everything right," said Vinatieri.
"He was a man that was respected by everybody," said McAfee.
"When I found out the good news (about the Ring of Honor), I texted him," said Reitz. "He texted me right back. Of course it was, 'Hey, how are the kids? My wife showed me pictures of your littlest one on Instagram.' That's just the guy he is."
So when Jeff Saturday's name is unveiled in the Ring of Honor Monday night, remember it's not only because he was a fantastic football player but an outstanding gentleman as well.