INDIANAPOLIS – For his three kids (and a fourth expected next month) a recent trip to Disney World was a magical sort of trip.
If you're asking Joe Reitz, he is now officially closing the book on a dreamlike trip of his own, one that began in Fishers, Ind, made a pit stop as an All-Conference college basketball player in Michigan and returned to the Indianapolis area for seven seasons playing for NFL team he adored as a young child.
"This is a fairytale for me," Reitz said on Tuesday morning, after announcing his retirement following nine NFL seasons, the last seven with the Indianapolis Colts.
"Growing up in Fishers, loving the Colts, growing up a Colts fan, and then getting to play here the last seven years has been beyond my wildest dreams. I'm so thankful to the organization and I'm so thankful to the fans for making it extra special for me."
Reitz, 31, retires with one year remaining on his contract.
Since joining the Colts practice squad in 2010, Reitz has been a virtual starter.
Starting at four different spots for 44 games, Reitz provided rare position flexibility and necessary reliance the Colts had to have with so much turnover in the offensive trenches.
Joe Reitz retires from the Colts.
"I took pride in that the coaches know and the players know that I'm going to do my job on Sunday," Reitz said of starting at every offensive line position, sans center, during his time with the Colts. "They know where I'm supposed to be. I'm going to know my assignment and I'm going to play as hard as I can and do the best job I can.
"All you want is the coaches and players in the locker room to trust you and know this is a guy that I want to go to battle with. Whether I was doing that at left guard or right tackle or jumbo tight end, that was something I took pride in and being a pro."
After nine seasons in the NFL, following four years of banging down low in college basketball, Reitz admits the injuries are a reason in him heading for retirement.
Reitz battled through a back injury during the 2016 season, but is grateful that he's not scheduled for any post-football surgeries.
Few NFL players can say they walk away from the game on their own terms. Reitz is getting to do that.
In the past few days, Reitz has reached out to former teammates Matt Birk (Baltimore), Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem to chat about post football-life.
It's those bonds, and playing on Sunday's, that Reitz will "miss like crazy" in retirement.
"But I know I've forged some great relationships with players and coaches," Reitz says. "This game has been great to me and blessed me to be able to play for the last nine years and the last seven in Indianapolis.
"It's a bittersweet day for me, but it's more sweet than bitter. I'm excited for the next chapter in my life, excited to have some more time to spend with my wife, Jill, and our three, soon to be four, kids. Excited to have more time to go out in the community and serve the great people of Indianapolis and Indiana."
In an interview with Colts.com on Tuesday, Reitz shared three of his favorite memories after seven seasons with the Colts:
- First Career Start: Week Two, 2011 season vs. Browns:Three years after passing up a lucrative career overseas playing basketball, here was Reitz starting his first professional football game, and doing it for his hometown team: "Running out of that tunnel I had tears streaming down my face," Reitz said of his first career start. "It was just such an awesome experience."
- The Playoff Comeback: Wild Card Round, 2013 season vs. Chiefs:Reitz's first playoff win as a member of the Colts came in dramatic fashion, with Indianapolis erasing a 28-point third-quarter deficit: "An unbelievable comeback and one of the best in NFL history. To be a part of that locker room and just the pure ecstasy in that locker room was awesome."
- Run to the AFC Championship: Divisional Round, 2014 season at Broncos:Reitz considers this upset victory over the Broncos probably the favorite game he played in. Reitz started at right tackle in the 24-13 win, in a game the Colts didn't allow Andrew Luck to be sacked in 43 pass attempts. "Beating them, that vaunted defense and Peyton Manning and doing it in Denver in front of a hostile crowd, you talk about a fun locker room and a fun plane ride home. That's a special memory I'll have the rest of my life."
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