INDIANAPOLIS — When Chris Ballard initially reached out to Pat McAfee to wish him all the best in his retirement, the former Indianapolis Colts punter screened the call.
See, McAfee was in Houston for the Super Bowl week festivities, and when he saw a Houston-area number was calling, he assumed it was an Uber driver trying to get a hold of him, and let it go straight to voicemail.
Ballard, McAfee said, left an extremely nice voice message — "it was, like, the most genuine thing ever" — and he said he couldn't wait to get the opportunity to talk to the Colts' new general manager face-to-face.
That opportunity came this week, McAfee said on his podcast, "The Pat McAfee Show presented by Barstool Sports." After going to the Colts' team facility to officially sign his retirement paperwork, he stopped by Ballard's office, and the two would end up chatting for about 40 minutes.
"The Colts are in good hands," McAfee said of Ballard. "Really, really good hands."
As it turns out, Ballard is a Barstool Sports fan, and has been enjoying McAfee's new podcast (which can be subscribed to by clicking here). Conversely, the two also chatted about Ballard's new job and his approach to roster building.
"I loved everything he was saying: the way he goes about his business, the way he handles his business," McAfee said. "He's offering a lot of small contracts — kind of like a 'prove-it' type of contract, because they're trying to re-build the team right now."
The Colts have been very active in free agency this offseason, especially on defense, signing guys like outside linebackers John Simon, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo, defensive end Margus Hunt and nose tackle Al Woods, while re-signing defensive back Darius Butler. On offense, the team re-signed tight end Jack Doyle and running back Robert Turbin, and also picked up free agents Brian Schwenke (center/guard), Brandon Williams (tight end) and Kamar Aiken (wide receiver).
And, of course, the Colts also have signed McAfee's replacement at punter: Jeff Locke.
That doesn't mean Ballard wouldn't consider having McAfee back if he ever decided to un-retire, however.
"He said, 'Before you retired, I was telling people, 'Just let me talk to you. Let me tell you that the culture in this building's going to be a little bit different,'" McAfee, utilizing a rough Texan accent, said Ballard told him. "I wanted you to know that, hey, maybe your mind's made up. Maybe you're ready to go do what you want to do — and I'm happy you found what you love doing, and this podcast is amazing. I listen. But I wanted to let you know that if you ever want to come back and kick for us, well g--d----, I've seen your film. You can do it any time you want.'
"I was like, 'Well, I appreciate that greatly," McAfee said. "I'm really enjoying retirement. But I appreciate that.'"
In all, McAfee said he appreciated the opportunity to get back to the Colts' team facility and see many of the same faces he had gotten to know so well on a personal level over the years. But his conversation with Ballard gives McAfee confidence that the team, and its fanbase, will be well-taken care of.
"It was a great conversation," McAfee said. "Just everything he said he seemed like such a genuine, good guy, which is (why) Indiana will love him. Indiana will absolutely love this guy."
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