For the first time as the Colts' interim head coach, Jeff Saturday had an opportunity to make a first impression with his players during a team meeting Wednesday.
Players certainly knew who he was – his name soars over them on gamedays in the Colts' Ring of Honor at Lucas Oil Stadium – but, in that meeting, they began to learn the kind of person, coach and leader he intends to be for them.
So what did the players in that meeting take away from it?
"The team meeting, the energy he brought – I was feeling it," defensive tackle and team captain DeForest Buckner said. "I know a lot of guys were too. I'm excited to have him, see how this thing shakes out."
"Impression, first off, was a great leader of men and really good energy," linebacker Bobby Okereke said.
"He did a great job commanding the room, I thought," wide receiver Parris Campbell said, "and his energy, his juice that he brought, I thought it was good."
If you made a word cloud out of the most common things we heard from players on Wednesday about Saturday, "energy" and "juice" would dominate the image.
And if you just watched Saturday's press conference with local media on Wednesday (which you can at the top of this article), you'd get it too – not only can Saturday command a room, but it's impossible to not be fired up leaving that room after listening to him speak.
"He came in with energy," Buckner said. "That's something we need right now."
But it's not just that Saturday delivered his message with enthusiasm and verve. It was how he delivered it – a delivery which came from a place of knowing he had to earn the trust of every single player sitting in front of him.
"He didn't just come in and automatically demand respect and everybody knows who he is and his message — he did it the right way," center Ryan Kelly said. "That comes obviously with the territory of being in this league for a long time. You easily smell out bull––t when you smell it. He did a great job."
The authenticity of Saturday's message resonated with players, too.
"He cares about this organization," Buckner said. "He's been in our shoes. The amount of sacrifice that each individual goes through playing this game and the relationships he's built throughout the entire building — I mean, he cares about this building. He obviously wants the best for us and that's why he decided to take the head coaching job. I respect that."
Saturday, too, didn't shy away from addressing the circumstances that brought him here. He knew how many of them were feeling – "They love Frank (Reich," Saturday said. "That's their coach. They played for this dude. I don't minimize that at all."
That part of Saturday's message also hit home with the team.
"We can't run from the truth, we can't run from whatever narratives are being said because it's out there regardless," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "We ain't gonna treat it like the elephant in the room, we're gonna be men and acknowledge it, and I think he did a great job with that. At the end of the day, it is what it is, we just gotta move forward and the only way we can do that is together."
So the energy, command, leadership and honesty Saturday brought helped make a strong first impression on his players. But so did his backstory as an undrafted free agent who went from being cut by the Baltimore Ravens to selling electrical supplies to earning a shot with the Colts – and then turning that opportunity into a wildly successful career.
"I know people in the community, outside of football that know Jeff speak great things about Jeff, the type of man he is, the character, and then also him as a football player being undrafted and being out of football for a year," left guard Quenton Nelson said. "He's an underdog, kind of like what we are now. And he came out on top and made himself a great career with hard work and determination, and that's something he's gonna bring again but now as a coach."
The Colts conducted a walkthrough Wednesday morning and practiced Wednesday afternoon with their collective focus trained on preparing for Sunday's Week 10 game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. These players will get to know Saturday better and better over the next eight games. But on Wednesday, their interim head coach certainly made a strong first impression by being energetic and real with them.
Saturday made that strong first impression by being himself.
"He's a genuine guy," quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. "He's been in the locker room before, obviously had a very successful career, he knows what it's like to play here, to play on this team. He has a great approach, he's a great human being, he's a great leader. And he was very transparent, honest with us, and I'm looking forward to getting to know him better."