INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Saturday virtually was in on the ground floor at the start of one of the greatest eras in franchise history.
Saturday joined the Colts in 1999, a year after Owner and CEO Jim Irsay installed Bill Polian as president and Jim Mora as head coach.
The Colts went 3-13 that year, then jumped to 13-3 in creating then the best one-season jump in NFL history (it has been tied but once since then).
Saturday did not start his first season, then anchored the offensive line from 2000-11 as the Colts produced the winningest regular-season decade (115 victories) in history, while making perpetual playoff appearances.
Saturday was guided by three head coaches – Mora, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell – and three position coaches – Howard Mudd, Pete Metzelaars and Ron Prince.
Saturday appreciates deeply how he was shaped on and off the field and recalls his leaders:
On Jim Mora
"Jim Mora introduced me to the NFL. He's got that 'old marine' in him. He got real fired up. He loved to yell and charge. He was by far one of the fairest men I've ever met. It didn't matter if you were Peyton or if you were me, he treated everybody the same. He wanted the job done. He carried the same expectations for everyone on and off the field. I appreciate that about him. He gave me the opportunity to make the team and then eventually start. I really appreciate that."
On Tony Dungy
"Tony, what a great man in every regard he is. I truly consider him a mentor in my walk with God and just the faith he had in the greatest circumstances and the worst was inspiring. I appreciate who he is as a man, as well as a coach."
On Jim Caldwell
"Jim was probably a mix between Jim Mora and Tony Dungy. He was more spirited than Coach Dungy, but he still carried that same faith and balance in life. I felt like he had it all put together, and we had a great run. I think he's an excellent football coach and an excellent leader of men. He's one I appreciated all my time with, even when he was the quarterbacks coach, but more importantly when he was my head coach."
On Howard Mudd
"Howard, I can't say enough about him. He made me a better player than I thought I could be. He challenged me and forced me to do things that I was probably scared to try, until he forced me to do them. He believed in me probably more than I believed in myself early on. He really encouraged me to do and try different things. He kept telling me, 'You have what it takes to do it.' He built that confidence in me as a player. As a former player, he understood physically you weren't always going to win your match-up, but he demanded greatness mentally and physically and turned me into the player I was. I'm very appreciative of all my years with him, all his crazy, bi-polar, flipout sessions that we (had with) him. I called him a manic. The guy was an incredible coach who had an incredible football mind. I'm very thankful he was my O-line coach for the many years that he was."
*On Pete Metzelaars and Ron Prince *
"Pete was a guy who played 16 years in the league, and just you have all the respect in the world for the guys who have done it and know what it's like to be out there on Sundays. The way Pete stewarded my career toward the end and kept me healthy and forced me to be smart in how I practiced and the way I prepared for the games added longevity. I appreciated when he and Ron Prince gave me new techniques and opportunities to do things different than even Howard had coached me. I felt that really polished it all toward the end. You always want to be learning and wanting to increase your knowledge of the game. I felt Pete and Ron were great at the end of my career in showing me a new light."