During his tenure with the Indianapolis Colts, Bill Polian made some great draft picks that ended up shaping the franchise. But one player he didn't draft ended up having a huge impact on the team as well: center Jeff Saturday.
In all honesty, Jeff Saturday embodies what the Colts of the 2000s were. He was a bit undersized and underrated, but he worked hard and played very well, not just being a great player on the field but being a great person off of it. It's not often that you'll see fans of a team wearing the jersey of the center, much less know his name, but with Jeff Saturday, fans weren't just wearing his jersey when he played, they're still wearing it now (I just saw a Saturday jersey at training camp yesterday).
He was initially signed as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina by the Baltimore Ravens in 1998, but he was released a few months after being signed. He worked at an electrical supply company for that year before Bill Polian called him in 1999. During the 1999 season Saturday was a backup guard (ending up starting two games there), and the from the 2000 season on he was their starting center. He played in 197 games with the Colts (starting 188), and in ten of his thirteen seasons for the Colts he played in every single game. He made five Pro Bowls during his time with the Colts and two first-team All-Pro berths as well. The Colts announced this offseason that they will induct Saturday into their Ring of Honor this season.
In his book The Game Plan: The Art of Building a Winning Football Team, Polian wrote that Saturday "was clearly a leader, was tough as nails, and had great movement. He also had that aura about him that told you he was something special." Despite that, the Colts didn't draft him that year but the following season he was at the top of Polian's list of players to contact about signing a futures contract. He told Howard Mudd, the Colts' offensive line coach, that, "you will blanch when you see him, but give him a chance. I really think this guy has something special going for him." From there, Mudd said that they'd start Saturday off at guard but that he'd be their center for the next decade. Quarterback Peyton Manning and Saturday developed a great rapport that made them the best quarterback/center duo in league history, and Peyton trusted Saturday to make all of the line calls and have input into the offense. And from 2000 through the end of Manning's career with the Colts, Saturday was there snapping him the ball and protecting him.
Saturday was a great player and will long be remembered as a classic Colt, and the fact that Polian signed him as a free agent off the street the year after he was drafted makes Saturday unquestionably one of the best moves of the era.