INDIANAPOLIS — It was the very first regular-season game at the sparkling new Lucas Oil Stadium; a rematch of Super Bowl XLI just a year and a half prior.
On Sept. 7, 2008, Indianapolis found itself in the national spotlight, as the Colts played host to the Chicago Bears in their respective season openers on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
All things considered, those scenarios could've been daunting for a rookie running back making his NFL debut.
But not all running backs are Matt Forte.
We'll get this out of the way first: Forte was terrific that night, and the Bears would roll to a 29-13 victory. Forte, the Bears' second-round pick out of Tulane that year, had 23 carries for 123 yards (5.3 yards per carry) with a touchdown, a sensational 50-yard scamper in the first quarter to give Chicago a 7-3 lead it would not relinquish.
But it didn't take long after that particular play for Forte to get properly welcomed to the NFL — and for the league to see just how tough of a back he was going to be.
Midway through the second quarter, the Colts pulled within one, 7-6, after a 34-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri. On the Bears' ensuing drive, they faced a 2nd and 6 from their own 38-yard line.
Quarterback Kyle Orton found Forte, a terrific pass catcher, on a screen route across the middle, and five yards later he was being pursued by linebacker Clint Session.
But then he met safety Bob Sanders.
Forte recently recalled that very moment in an interview with Sports Illustrated's "Monday Morning Quarterback."
Forte, who announced his retirement from the NFL in April, told MMQB's Kalyn Kahler it was the hardest hit he would take in his career.
You can read the entire interview by clicking here, but here's what Forte had to say about that moment with Sanders, one of the hardest hitters in Colts history, specifically:
THE MMQB: Do you remember the hardest hit you took in your career? When was it?
FORTE: The first game. I went ahead and got it out of the way. I got my "Welcome to the NFL" hit in the first game. I caught a screen pass and I was dragging a linebacker, he got my ankle, and I was trying to get more yards and I saw Bob Sanders coming at me the last second. He is known for being a hitter, and he got my shoulder—he got up underneath my shoulder pad and it hit right on my deltoid and my arm was like a noodle for like a minute. I had to come out of the game for a second, and then I went back in. I was proud that I took his hit and then went back in the game and finished. That was the hardest hit, and I realized after the game, once you're struggling for more yards and the play is over with, just go down. Live to fight another day.
Forte would go on to enjoy a very successful 10-year NFL career. In eight seasons with the Bears and two seasons with the New York Jets, he had 2,356 carries for 9,796 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and 54 touchdowns, while he also added 554 receptions for 4,672 yards and another 21 scores through the air.
Forte also, indirectly, has a bit of a connection to this current Indianapolis team.
He's one of Colts general manager Chris Ballard's all-time favorite players; Ballard, of course, was a Southwest area scout for the Bears when they took Forte, and he often references the running back when asked what he looks for in a player at that position.
Forte's name came up in April, when talking about fifth-round pick Jordan Wilkins:
"Jordan Wilkins, now he is an interesting runner," Ballard told reporters. "I don't ever want to put names, but his run style reminded me a lot of Matt Forte. We thought he had as good of vision as any back in the draft. He had an injury that sidelined him at one point, but he's healthy and we are excited to get him."