It wasn’t Lucas Oil Stadium, but it was just up the street. And for a few minutes, it kind of looked like it.
Music blared, lights swirled, and smoke filled the air as Colts players and coaches were introduced in the ballroom of the J.W. Marriott on Wednesday afternoon for the annual Colts Kickoff Luncheon.
“Let’s get excited about what’s about to happen in our city,” said Jimmy Matis, Corporate Partnership Manager for the Colts. “Our coach is fired up. Our team is fired up. It’s time for all of us to get fired up.”
To kick off their 35th season in Indianapolis, the Colts brought in a guy who made every season he played exciting – well, most of them, anyway.
“I lost more games my rookie year than I had my entire high school and college careers combined,” said former quarterback Peyton Manning, who was drafted by the Colts 20 years ago. “I threw 26 interceptions that year. That’s still an NFL rookie record today. I’m not going to lie, I pulled for a lot of quarterbacks to break that record. I wanted Eli Manning to break it, Andrew Luck to break it, I wanted to get that one off my resume.”
Interviewed on stage by FOX 59’s Chris Hagan, Manning said what he doesn’t miss about football is getting hit. What he misses most is being part of a team.
“Football is the ultimate team game and on an NFL team, there are 53 guys – it’s the ultimate form of bonding, camaraderie, and fellowship. You do everything together – you sit in these meetings together, you practice together, you fly on the team plane together.”
Teammates quickly become brothers.
This season, Manning was excited to see his former quarterbacks coach, Frank Reich, return to the Colts family as head coach.
“Frank was a great quarterbacks coach for me. Being a former quarterback, he and I could speak the same language. We had great rapport, we could have these conversations without having to draw the play up on the board – we could both see it in our minds the same way, which allowed for fast communication.”
Quarterback Andrew Luck agreed, calling Reich a great communicator.
“There’s a certain language that’s spoken that someone else may not understand, but as a quarterback and a coach you can get to the heart of the matter very quickly,” he said. “We’re thrilled to play for him.”
Reich couldn’t be more thrilled to coach a guy like Luck, who wants to get better, wants to be coached, wants to work hard, and shows up every day with that mindset.
And he’s got a locker room full of them.
Off the field, defensive tackle Al Woods is a pretty laid-back guy. But that changes when he puts his helmet on.
“Every practice is like a fight. And I always say I don’t want to turn in a bad fight card. So every day I get out there and I fight and fight and fight and then when I take my helmet off, I’ll be anybody’s friend. But until then, ‘Hey, you’re in my way.’”
That’s just the kind of intensity the team needs to carry them through a long and grueling NFL season.
“What that does, is it creates a mental toughness and a drive that’s just fun and exciting to be around,” said Reich. “When you get a bunch of guys who fight like that and believe like that, it’s amazing what can happen.”
The Colts are a young team. But they’re not going to let that hold them back.
“The preseason has been important, but every day has been important – every practice, every meeting, every walk through – and guys are having fun. It’s been a great attitude, it’s been a great energy,” Luck said. “We’ve put a lot of good work in so far with a lot more work that we’ll have to do, but I think I can speak for all of us and say that we’re very excited for the next step.”
The next step never changes. It’s what they’re focused on now and it’s what they’ll be focused on in the days, week, and months ahead.
The Colts kicked off the 2018 season with a luncheon at the JW Marriott. Host Chris Hagan of FOX59 interviewed Peyton Manning, head coach Frank Reich, general manager Chris Ballard and a panel of Colts players including Al Woods, Eric Ebron, Adam Vinatieri, Andrew Luck and Jabaal Sheard
“The relentless pursuit to get better, an obsession to finish,” said General Manager Chris Ballard. “We have to be in that mindset every day. Everybody in the organization has to be in that mindset. That’s the only way you get better. You have to do that every day. And when you focus on that, the wins will come. The success will come.”
And from there, anything is possible.
The countdown to kickoff for the Colts home opener on September 9th starts today! For information on all the festivities go to: Colts.com/kickoff.