INDIANAPOLIS —Get up, pound the chest, salute.
For so many of those across Colts Nation, that's the lasting memory of Dwight Freeney, whose ability to not only get to the quarterback, but to make game-changing plays week after week after week, year after year after year, made him perhaps the greatest pass rusher of his era.
But on Monday, the Indianapolis Colts were the ones retuning the salute to one of their all-time greats.
After 16 marvelous seasons — the first 11 of which were spent in Indianapolis — Freeney decided to retire from the game of football, allowing quarterbacks and offensive linemen across the league to exhale a collective sigh of relief, knowing that No. 93 and his trademark spin move are officially a thing of the past.
Freeney, who was selected with the 11th-overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, 16 years ago to the day on Friday, went out on his terms, and was able to retire as a member of the Colts, who hosted a special press conference in his honor on Monday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, where he signed a one-day contract to end his professional playing career where it all began.
Freeney was a key member of the Colts' Super Bowl XLI championship team during the 2006 campaign, and finishes his career in 17th place on the all-time sacks list with 125.5, 107.5 of which he earned while wearing the Horseshoe. Here were some highlights from the press conference for the seven-time Pro Bowl and three-time First Team All-Pro selection:
Colts general manager Chris Ballard
• Ballard kicked things off with a few words on Freeney, whom he considered "an absolute game changer." "There's no doubt he's one of the game's great pass rushers," Ballard said.
• Ballard, a former scout and player personnel official with the Chicago Bears and the Kansas City Chiefs, said Freeney played his teams seven times, "and in those games he combined for three sacks, five quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one Super Bowl (championship)."
• "I tell Robert (Mathis) all the time: we need to go find Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. It is very difficult to do, and (it's) a tribute to you, a tribute to Bill Polian and his staff, you know, when they drafted both of you," Ballard said.
Colts owner Jim Irsay
• Irsay, wearing his Super Bowl XLI ring, was next up at the mic, and he talked about when he watched college film of Freeney leading up to the 2002 NFL Draft. "With Dwight, it was like, you would turn on the film, and it was just mayhem."
• "When we picked him, Bill and I had talked about it — Bill Polian and I — and I had no idea that he was going to have that type of size/strength component," Irsay said.
• Pointing to Freeney, Irsay said: "This type of guy — once every 70 years? Honestly. I mean, and I'm not exaggerating. One of the greatest football players I have ever seen in my life. And he's gonna go in the Hall of Fame, even if him and I have to go there and break in and get his statue already made."
• Freeney thanked many people he said were instrumental in his success, from his agents, to Irsay, to Polian to head coach Tony Dungy. But he made a special mention to the Colts' equipment and training staffs, who were sure to keep him fresh week in and week out.
• Talking about Mathis, Freeney said: "He's my brother. Every single day, man, we broke down film, then we went out on the field, we caused havoc, destroyed quarterbacks left and right, destroyed offensive linemen, destroyed offensive coordinators' plans on a day-to-day basis. Those memories are going to stick with me forever."
• Freeney on his legacy: "I'm proud of the work that I put in. I gave it my all, and hopefully I made a difference in some kid's life like Lawrence Taylor did for me when I was younger, man. So I hope I did that, and like I said, this has been a great ride, and thank you."
• Fielding questions from reporters, Freeney said his two favorite memories with the Colts both happened in the 2006 season, first when the team came back to defeat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game — "That was a mountain that we could not [previously] climb" — and then, of course, going on to defeat the Bears in the Super Bowl.
• Asked what led to his decision to retire, Freeney, 38, simply thought "that it was time." "I still love the game. I think that I could still play, maybe, but I've got a good bill of health," he continued. "And I'm good. … I wanted to kind of see what else was going on with life." For now, that means much more time to spend on his golf game, but beyond that, Freeney says he's not sure what lies ahead."
NFL defensive end Dwight Freeney officially retired from the league as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.