INDIANAPOLIS — A little more than four years ago, an undrafted tight end from Western Kentucky, freshly waived by the Tennessee Titans on cut-down day, arrived in Indianapolis with a simple mission.
"You got to come in, you got to work on special teams," Jack Doyle said to media members the day after he signed with the Colts in 2013. "That's going to be a huge focus for me coming in. I'm going to bust my butt every day. If I do the best I can and bust my butt, I'll be alright."
It was one of Doyle's first statements as a member of the Indianapolis Colts, and it perfectly encapsulates his time in the NFL thus far. Doyle, an Indianapolis native who played his high school football at Cathedral, has not stopped working since that day in September 2013, and it's safe to say things have worked out better than "alright."
Doyle earned his keep on special teams that first year and served mainly as a blocking tight end, doing the dirty work while Coby Fleener, a 2012 second-round draft pick, pulled in the bulk of the tight end receptions.
Doyle — head down, lunch pail in hand — kept working diligently as a reserve tight end in 2014-15, earning more opportunities to show off his ability as a pass catcher along the way. He totaled 30 receptions for 190 yards during those two years.
He also earned the respect of the locker room and the coaching staff. In 2014, special teams coordinator Tom McMahon had "WWJD" bracelets made for the whole special teams unit; the custom bands read "Walk With Jack Doyle." During the 2016 season, Colts punter Pat McAfee was spotted wearing a "Jack Does Everything" shirt in the locker room.
The man's selfless approach and unceasing work ethic clearly won him the love and respect of his teammates and coaches over the years.
In 2016, Doyle won over the fans as well.
Fleener left the team via free agency after 2015, making way for Doyle to have a breakout year of sorts in 2016. As the No. 2 tight end behind Dwayne Allen, Doyle had a career season, starting 14 games and posting single-season highs in receptions (59), receiving yards (584) and touchdowns (five). Among players with at least 50 targets, he ranked first among tight ends with a 78.7 catch percentage, and two of his touchdowns were late game winners.
Doyle's 2016 campaign impressed many, including new Colts general manager Chris Ballard. Ballard and the Colts inked Doyle to a three-year, $19 million deal in March. One day later, the Colts traded Allen away to the Patriots.
From undrafted rookie and special teams contributor to the No. 1 guy in four years, hometown kid Jack Doyle is now The Man in Indianapolis at the tight end spot. It was no surprise to Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who gushes about Doyle every opportunity he gets.
"I think we saw first and foremost his in-line blocking improved. Not only being just pigeon-holed as an H-back, he can fill that role and also be a mismatch guy that gets open and catches a bunch of balls between the hashes and also play down the field in the seams, in the red area and outside the numbers," Pagano said when asked about Doyle's new contract. "He's a reliable, reliable guy. The quarterback has a ton of faith and trust in that guy. He's always where he's supposed to be and that makes a huge difference."
Doyle's quiet, workman-like rise to prominence may have gone unnoticed by football fans outside of Indianapolis, but it has not been lost by coaches around the league.
Ahead of the Colts' Week 3 matchup with the Browns, Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson raved about Doyle.
"He's a tremendous competitor," Jackson said. "He's a good pass catcher. He's reliable. He's accountable. He's making plays for their football team. I think he'll be a household name before the end of the year is out."
The ever-reliable Doyle has been needed more than ever in 2017. With franchise quarterback Andrew Luck out due to injury, second-year signal caller Jacoby Brissett has leaned on Doyle's dependability as he works to learn a new offensive system. Entering Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Doyle leads all Colts receivers in receptions (50) — ranking in the Top 10 in the NFL and second among all tight ends in that category — and has 441 receiving yards with two touchdowns. Included in those numbers is the best performance of his career two weeks ago against the Cincinnati Bengals: 12 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown.
How has this under-recruited, undrafted, former special teams standout become a go-to pass catcher in the NFL?
"He just works really, really hard in the classroom, (in) walkthroughs and then takes it to practice," Pagano said. "It's the same thing over and over and over again. You try to get everybody to practice with that type of intention and be deliberate about it. He's so good at it."
Pagano went on and on.
"He's worked. He's worked at it. There's not one day that he doesn't come in here with the mindset to get better. He's a perfect example of a guy that you reap what you sow, and he puts time in. And he's reliable as heck, and obviously we have a lot of faith and trust in him, his teammates do, quarterbacks do."
Clearly the secret to success hasn't changed for Jack Doyle: just work your butt off and everything will be alright.