Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
I am sure (and very hopeful) that everyone has a lot to be thankful for - least of all that our banged up Colts are still in the playoff hunt. Even with the 2nd game coming to an end, on holidays like today, football takes a back seat to family.
Sometimes it may get lost under the huge heaping of food, but one of the greatest aspects of Thanksgiving is it provides everyone a time to be with the people we love. On such occasions we count our blessings and know we are cared for. However dysfunctional families can be, we always look to them for support, especially during the trying times.
With the Colts its no different. The most underrated reason the Colts win year in and year out, is because the Colts organization has created that sense of family. Having Peyton Manning throw the football doesn't hurt, but from Jim Irsay to Tony Dungy on down, the Colts have successfully promoted and built upon a family-like atmosphere; an atmosphere where the players and staff feel and know they are supported.
The results speak for themselves. Players know that they will be rewarded for their play and in turn show a sense of loyalty and desire to stay in Indianapolis. How many teams can boast even 2 players that have played for the team that drafted them (or signed them as un-drafted free agents) for more than 10 years? Not many. The Colts have 5 such stalwarts and are close to adding three more to that list with 3 players - Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Gary Bracket - locked under contract well past what will be their respective 10th year with the club. (Don't forget players like Tarik Glenn and Marvin Harrison either).
Even though its a small-market team in the Mid West, players want to play for Indianapolis because of people like Jim Irsay, Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning (I would include Jim Cadwell on the list but its still only his second year). All three are winners. All three are consummate professionals and all three are good people that care about their families and friends. They are the main architects of the Colts doctrine which emphasizes a focus on family, community and accountability to one another. Read any profile on them and it will say the same thing: family and religion (or living the right way) comes first and then football. In fact, when Peyton gave a talk a few years back at a local high school, he was 20 minutes into his speech before he even mentioned football.
Yet, even with such an attitude, the results haven't suffered. As the winning-est team in football over the past decade, the Colts have won not in spite of that commitment to being family oriented but because of it. In a football obsessed culture that thinks the sport is all the matters, the Colts have demonstrated that proper balance is actually the most successful formula. The veteran players and the coaching staff establish the tone and model for the younger players. Collectively, they look to each other, mentor each other and rely on each other year in and year out.
In a league full of egocentric and selfish players (ahem T.O.) the Colts share the praise and the blame equally. Like last week when Peyton took the blame from Garcon for his costly interception, the elders of the family always set the right example and protect the younger guys.
And in a league where parity reigns, the Colts continually win.
On this day to give thanks, I would also like to take a minute to show my appreciation to a few unheralded members of the Colts community who embody the spirit of the team and organization.
He has never worn a uniform and you have probably never heard of him, but we should all be grateful for the sacrifice of Indianapolis native and long time Colts fanatic, Josh Bleill. A marine serving in Iraq, Josh was caught in an explosion in Fallujah 4 years ago. Risking his life for his country he lost his legs, and nearly his life. Faced with overwhelming adversity, Josh chose not to crumble but to rise to the challenge and use his story to serve and inspire others. Moved by his story, Mr. Irsay offered Josh a job with the team. Today, under the official title of Community Spokesperson Josh is the only amputee veteran to represent a team in the community. Josh should be an inspiration to us all and a model for how to overcome adversity.
The video is a wonderful example of what a special and heroic individual Josh is and what a quality organization the Colts run. If you don't believe me - listen to Josh.
Btw.. He says he wanted to come home and pay us back for supporting him. Are you kidding me!?!? Josh, it is us who are indebted to you.
On the field, a player who doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves is Justin Snow. An undrafted free agent back in 2000, Justin Snow has been the Colts long/deep snapper and back up tight end for the past 11 years. You never hear his name called - which is a good thing at his position - but he too embodies what the Colts are about: a tough, disciplined selfless guy who has spent his entire career doing the unheralded little things that make a big difference in the outcome of games. Appropriately, the Colts have made sure he sticks around.
Lastly, the third person that doesn't get, or want, the attention but who all Colts fans should be thankful for is running backs coach Gene Huey. The longest tenured Colt - both coaching staff and players, Gene has produced and tutored possible Canton bound running backs in Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James and now Joesph Addai. In keeping with the mantra of the team, Coach Huey makes sure that his runners are smart, disciplined and are unselfish and capable at blocking. Coach Huey shies from the limelight yet he has presided over 12 of the 19 individual 1,000 yard rushing seasons. Imagine the pressure on Peyton Manning without him.
Many more people associated with the Colts and otherwise deserve our thanks and gratitude. These are some of the people who continue to do a stand-up job without any accolades. They do their jobs the right way and as a result make it easy on us fans. So thank you.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy the time with your families and all of tomorrow's leftovers. Come Sunday night its back to business.