After Chuck Pagano's press conference on Monday afternoon, he had an announcement to make. Safety Antoine Bethea was named the Colts Man of the Year for 2013.
"Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the entire Colts organization – coaches, players, Colts fans everywhere – it’s my privilege to recognize Antoine (Bethea) as 2013 Colts Man of The Year. Please join me in congratulating him. We just did this with the team out there and they were all yelling, ‘Speech! Speech! Speech!’ You know Antoine’s a man of few words, he lets his actions speak louder than his words, but can’t think of a better man to receive this. What you’ve done is impeccable. Congratulations."
As the Colts Man of the Year award winner, Bethea will be in contention to win the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, awarded annually in honor of the late great running back, which is the highest honor an NFL player can receive for his off the field work.
Bethea has been a mainstay of the Colts defense for eight years now since being drafted in 2006. He currently has a streak of 90 consecutive games started. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and has notched over 100 tackles in each of the past five seasons, and he is on pace to do so again this year as he is currently second on the team with 67 tackles.
Off the field, he has had an even bigger impact. This from Colts.com:
"Off the field, Antoine's statistics are just as impressive. After completing his college degree at Howard University in 2011, he started his Safe Coverage Foundation to provide access and resources for students to achieve their dreams of a higher education. Each year, Bethea hosts a college tour for fifty inner-city high school students from his hometown of Newport News, Va. The tour, which includes visits to George Mason University and Howard University, was created to expose inner-city youth to college campuses and give them the opportunity to meet with faculty.
"At each Colts home game, Bethea donates 15 tickets and meal vouchers to underserved youth in Indiana as a part of the team's Community Ticket Block program. He also hosts two free football camps for youth each year - one in Indianapolis through a partnership with the Colts and one in his hometown. Combined, the camps serve more than 400 students annually.
"The past two years, Bethea has served as the local spokesperson for United Way's Team NFL initiative. Bethea is one of 32 players around the NFL who have pledged to help United Way recruit new mentors, tutors and readers nationwide. Last year Bethea also started an annual clothing drive with his teammates - at the conclusion of the drive, he and several teammates delivered the clothing to Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis, Ind. and helped serve dinner while visiting with the men served at the shelter.
"In addition to his personal efforts, Bethea has supported several of the Colts community programs and initiatives, and those of his teammates, over his eight seasons in the NFL. In 2012, he was selected by his teammates to receive the Ed Block Courage Award, an annual honor given to a player on each NFL team for courageous play."
Bethea said on Monday that he is "really honored" to be named the Colts Man of the Year and that it is "one of those awards that I'll hold close to my heart." He credited his parents "110 percent" for where he is today, but also mentioned how some players influenced him too:
"Gary Brackett. I think Gary Brackett and just what he's done and what he's meant for this organization when he was playing here, and still what he does for this community. GB's one of the guys I still talk to today, get advice from. Gary, Reggie (Wayne), Robert Mathis, those are guys that I really looked up to as a rookie, and still do."
Bethea also talked about how he has seen kids impacted by his college tours program:
"Well, I started that with the kids in my community in my city where I grew up at. Some kids, they don't get the opportunity to really get out of the city and see what's outside. So I figured that was a good opportunity to really let them know what's outside of Newport News (Va.). When I first did it, I took the kids to Howard University and also George Mason. Just to see their faces light up and just to be able to talk to them, sit down and touch them and let them know it's a possibility. If you work hard, do good in school, you can go on and do great things."
Bethea talked about how there are several players in the organization who are deserving of this award and how many players choose to use their Tuesdays (the Colts off day) and go out in the community and serve. "I tip my hat to those guys that do that," he said.
Antoine Bethea is definitely a class act both on and off the field. He is absolutely deserving of this award and is a great example for other players to follow. He is one of those guys who truly gets how much of an impact he has and who tries to use it in a beneficial way that goes beyond football, and he has done that in his career in Indianapolis. The city and community is better with him being there, and that is a great compliment to pay anybody. Not only has he been a great player on the field for the Colts, he has been an even better figure in the community.
The Walter Payton Man of the Year award is announced annually at the NFL Honors program shortly before the Super Bowl. Last year's winner was Cowboys' tight end Jason Witten. Two Colts have won the award since the start of the award in 1970 (although it was just the Man of the Year award then; it was named after Walter Payton for the 1999 season). In 1970 Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas won the award and in 2005 Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning won the award. With being honored as the Colts Man of the Year in 2013, Antoine Bethea will now be in consideration for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. He is absolutely deserving of that and the other honors he has received, and he is absolutely deserving of what people have said about him in the past day or two.
Antoine Bethea is a great player and an even better person, and his contributions to Indianapolis have been and continue to be great. I'll join with Chuck Pagano here and congratulate Antoine Bethea on the recognition. He is definitely deserving and is one of those players that makes me really proud to be a Colts fan.