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Jeff Saturday to Retire as a Colt on Thursday

Jeff Saturday will retire with the Indianapolis Colts tomorrow (March 7) after a tremendous 14 year career, 13 of which were with the Colts. A great player and an even better person, the Colts' longtime center will be remembered for a long time.

Al Messerschmidt

When the Colts made their roster purge last offseason to go along with the release of Peyton Manning (which was a year ago tomorrow, March 7), one of the few notable players who was not released was Jeff Saturday.

He just wasn't re-signed. He was a free agent and, after spending 13 years in Indianapolis, the Colts moved on. It was a move that was understandable, considering his age and the new direction the Colts were heading.

Now, after a year with the Packers, Saturday will once again be a Colt - for a day. When Saturday announced prior to the Pro Bowl that he would retire, it was widely assumed that he would retire a Colt, and he will indeed. Tomorrow, one of the greatest players in the franchise's history will hold a press conference at noon to announce his retirement after a 14 year career.

Saturday was about as good as they come, both on and off the field. He was a captain and leader of the Colts and always handled himself with dignity and class. He is widely regarded as one of the best guys in the league; and the respect that Colts fans had had for him for years was finally realized by the entire NFL when, during the NFL lockout, Saturday played a key role in getting a new deal done. The lasting image from that is of Saturday and Patriots' owner Robert Kraft, whose wife Myra had recently passed away, exchanging a hug to end the lockout.

On the field, Saturday was the anchor of the Colts offensive line and was the perfect representation of what the Colts were under Bill Polian and Tony Dungy - undersized guys overlooked by other teams who came to Indy and excelled. In 1999, after being out of college for a year, Jeff Saturday was signed to a deal with the Indianapolis Colts. He began as a backup guard and started only two games in 1999. The following year, however, he started every game at center and from that point on, he and quarterback Peyton Manning developed a chemistry unlike any other quarterback-center duo in NFL history. Not to mention the fact that the two played together for 12 seasons, but they were the perfect fit for each other. Manning, the smartest quarterback to ever play the game and who perfected the audible, and Saturday, one of the smartest players in the league and who also excelled at calling audibles. The two worked as a perfect team, and it showed. For example, the week before the Colts' Super Bowl XLI victory, Peyton Manning made Saturday practice snapping wet footballs to Manning because the forecast called for rain and Manning wanted to be ready. When Sunday rolled around and it was indeed raining, Manning and Saturday were ready while the Bears struggled to hang onto the football. It was the little, behind the scenes things that made the two so great, both individually and together.

During his time in Indianapolis, Saturday started 188 games and appeared in 197, making five pro bowls (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and then he made a sixth and final pro bowl in 2012 with the Packers in which he crossed sides to snap the ball to Peyton Manning one last time). He was named a first team All-Pro twice (2005, 2007) and a second team All-Pro two more times (2006, 2009). In his 13 years with the Colts, he was a part of 140 regular season wins, 11 postseason appearances, 2 AFC titles, and a super bowl championship.

Saturday said in a statement released earlier in the week by the team:

"The years I spent with the Colts were truly remarkable and I am honored to be able to retire as a member of one of the classiest organizations in the NFL. I also want to thank Green Bay for the opportunity to compete as a member of the Packers last season. During my time in Indianapolis, I made tremendous relationships with numerous teammates, coaches, and staff within the organization. It was also a pleasure playing for Mr. Irsay, who is a wonderful owner. He gave tremendous support for my wife and I in all of our community endeavors."

Although it is unknown in what role he will join the Colts after retirement, Saturday will remain a member of the Colts organization. His playing career has come to an end, which will be announced at a noon press conference with the Colts, but his time with the organization will continue. Saturday will go into the ring of honor, could possibly have his jersey retired, and could possibly make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He had a tremendous career and is a tremendous person, and us Colts fans have been blessed and are proud to have been able to watch him for so many years. His time on the field is done, but it won't soon be forgotten.