ANDERSON – Andy Studebaker is starting his second year with the Colts, his seventh in the NFL. With training camp underway, Colts.com catches up with him.
You've been in the NFL longer than the average player, do you respect it even more for that – Knock on wood (smiles), absolutely. Going into my seventh year, it's a challenge. The thing I love about the business is there are no guarantees. You have to bring your lunch pail every day. If you can do that, you give yourself a shot. That's all you can ask for. Sometimes you pinch yourself and remember it's a privilege. It really is. There are a lot of guys who wish they could do what we're doing. Sometimes it's hard to remember that in the middle of camp. Last year having been unemployed through a third of the season until the Colts called, it made me realize how grateful I was. I think I'd lost sight of that for a while and became a little bit entitled. It gave me a new perspective on what it means to be in the NFL, the brotherhood of guys who said they got to do it. Having to sit on the sidelines a bit rejuvenated my passion and reminded me I do love what I do. It reminded me no job here is too small. I was waiting for an opportunity and watching NFL games. For the first time since high school, I wasn't in a training camp in September. My birthday (September 16) came and went, and there was no football to play. That was weird because the last 10-12 years I'd been playing. It sparked something inside that made me want to do this for a long time.
You've been in Kansas City and here, what can you say about the Colts' culture – You walk into the facility and you see the names of the guys who have gone before you. There's the saying, 'If we see further than other man, it's because we stand on the shoulders of giants.' There's a culture of winning here that is contagious. You see all the banners and the big Super Bowl banner and you're struck with the responsibility you have when you put on the uniform. People expect big things from you. The culture from the past, it's something that's been built over the years. It's our responsibility to push it forward and keep the tradition alive.
Did it feel strange changing uniforms in this league – At the beginning it did. The temptation is to compare everything to your past. I had to look at the past and say that was a great portion of my career. I enjoyed my time and relationships there, but the past is the past. It's time to buy into the new culture and a different way of doing things. It was good for me. Change is one of the best ways to push you forward. If you get comfortable or complacent, you become being dissatisfied in a lot of ways. Change for me came at the right time.
Best advice you received before entering the NFL and who gave it to you – One of the guys who mentored me was Mike Vrabel in Kansas City. He played for the Patriots for years. In my second or third year when I was cutting my teeth as a player, I learned a ton from him. Guys like Zach Thomas were big. Early in my career being around guys like that was important. Guys in their 13th and 14th year and had won Super Bowls and gone to Pro Bowls were working their tails off in practice and they were in their playbooks at night. They gave young guys advice. I was shocked Mike Vrabel would give me the time of day, but he did and showed me the ropes. Learning how to become a pro is essential early, just learning the right job habits. When you pick those up, success comes a lot easier, and it's still not easy.
So you think young players should find a mentor – My advice is to find someone, probably in your position group, and follow them around. Watch them, even if they can't help you with Xs and Os, just watch them – see how act, take care of their body, ask questions and see their practice demeanor. That's really big. For the older guys, I say go find a young player and be that guy for them. I'm grateful for the guys who did it for me. Had they not done it, I probably wouldn't be here or understood the game the way I do now.
Was there an NFL player you wanted to meet before you made the league and why – Not really. I grew up a Bears fan. In the late 1990s, Brian Urlacher was 'The Guy' in Chicago. He was in his prime when I was starting in high school. He kind of was what we wanted to be. I wasn't huge into football. I grew into the love for football because I slowly grew physically. I understood I could play the game. When I was eight years old, we just didn't really love football. We didn't have that culture growing up (in Illinois). It was a slow process for us.
What would you do if the Cubs won a World Series– (Laughs) I'm a Cubs guy. It would mean my in-laws would get off my back. There are only two Cubs fans in our family, the rest are Cardinals fans. It would mean we'd get them off our backs. We could shut down all the talk that's gone on for years. It would mean there's a chance for everybody, and that's why you play the games. I always say, 'If not this year, then next year.'
Yes or no, do you think they ever will– Oh, of course, probably next year. That's my guess.
What's the hardest and fun thing about training camp – The hardest thing is the change from OTAs to here. OTAs mean things aren't on the line necessarily. Here, you're in an all-day schedule. You have to be ready for it. It's the realization that the way you feel today is how you're going to feel the rest of the year. That's a reality – physically it's hard. The grind is hard. The middle of the second week, you know jobs are on the line. Your body's hurt, you're tired, you're meeting over and over. That's the hard part, but I enjoy it. The grind exposes things in you that are helpful. It exposes mental weaknesses you may have, and some physical ones. It's a necessary part of the season because it sets your focus in a way that nothing else can. The most fun part is being around the guys. It's a little slap-happy. We're in the grind together. Just being around dudes for lunch and dinner is fun.
Teammate I expect to have a great camp and why – I can't pick one individually. We have a ton of experience, and this is the third year in a system. There will be a spike. Guys are communicating well. The defense seems to be firing on all cylinders. On the linebacking corps, there's an identity we want to establish. I think we're poised to make a nice jump.
What you know now about training camp that you didn't as a rookie – (Laughs) I didn't know what I didn't know as a rookie. I was swimming my rookie year. I came from a Division three school (Wheaton) straight into playing a position I never played. I was literally lost. Sights now are more familiar, no matter what camp you're in. There are a lot of the same schedules, you see a lot of the same things. You understand the ebbs and flows way better. I have a grasp of what Day Five feels like, compared to your rookie year when you wake up and can't think straight. As a rookie, you don't quite know what to expect.
Do you have a favorite quote? If so, who did you hear it from and why does it mean something to you – My college coach, Mike Swider, is a quote guy and an unbelievable guy. He said, 'At the end of every day, you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself do you like what you see? If you can hang your hat on that and say you like what you see, you like the effort you gave, then you can go to bed at night. If you don't like what you see, you have problems.' Another one he said was, 'There are two kinds of pain in the world, the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. One of them is temporary, and one is forever.' I think about that a lot in training camp. I want to stay disciplined now because this isn't forever. You don't want to regret going in the tank or not giving your best effort in camp.
Do people still remember the significance of your family's last name, or is it generationally gone now – I'd say it's sort of escaping my generation. The Baby-Boomers, my parents' generation, everybody remembers and asks me about the name. It's still a little bit of fun. In about 30 years, questions will be few and far between. Maybe the Studebaker will make a comeback. There still is some family pride. It's cool being in Indianapolis, we're not far from the original factory in South Bend. Around here, it's cool to be close to where it's started. Around here, there's a little more recognition than where I grew up. I'm not related closely enough that they're sending me checks or free cars, though (laughs).
What makes Chuck Pagano so much fun to play for – Guys know when a coach is real. When a coach speaks from conviction and has a relationship with his players, it's contagious. The guys buy in because he has a relationship with us. He cares about us, our personal lives outside the white lines and our families. It starts with that. When he speaks, he means what he says. Coach Pagano speaks with passion. Because of those things, it's an impactful relationship. Guys give their all for him.