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Jeff Saturday to be inducted into Colts Ring of Honor tonight

At halftime of tonight's Monday Night Football game against the Jets, the Colts will induct former center Jeff Saturday into their Ring of Honor.

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In one of the biggest games the Indianapolis Colts have ever played, one of their key players came up just as big.  The Colts had fallen behind the New England Patriots 21-3 and trailed 21-6 at halftime of the AFC Championship game at home.  The fans were stunned, as it appeared to be another playoff loss to the Patriots, who would go on to another Super Bowl.  But then Peyton Manning began to bring the Colts back, and they managed to tie the game up at 21 before the Patriots then scored again, making it then 28-21 entering the fourth quarter.

As the Colts were about to score to tie up the game again, however, running back Joseph Addai "fumbled the freaking football," as Bob Lamey said.  Suddenly, however, center Jeff Saturday recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, tying up the game.  The two teams then traded field goals before the Patriots hit another kick, putting them up three points with just a couple of minutes left to go.  Quickly and calmly, Manning led the team down the field approaching the game-winning score to send the Colts to the Super Bowl.  And it was then that Jeff Saturday made his best play of the day and one of the best of his career, when considering the stage.

The Colts got the ball down inside the red zone, and they then decided to pound the football right up the middle with the running game.  Joseph Addai for five yards.  Joseph Addai for three yards.  And then, on third down from the three yard line, they handed the ball off to Addai once again, and this one again up the middle.  Saturday was going up against a very good nose tackle in Vince Wilfork, but it didn't matter - Saturday cleared him out of the play, opening up a big hole for Addai to run right through for the winning touchown.  The Colts were going to the Super Bowl, and in large part to a play Saturday liked to refer to as "the block."  Linemen don't receive much credit when things are going well, but Saturday made that play by clearing out Wilfork.

Tonight, Saturday will get his due for that game but also for so many others like it as he is inducted into the Colts' Ring of Honor during halftime of the Monday Night Football game against the Jets.  It's an impressive group, with Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk having their names in Lucas Oil Stadium alongside future Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, and Tony Dungy, among other notable players who made contributions to the Colts.  And Jeff Saturday, an undrafted and undersized center, fits right in with the stellar group.

He originally played collegiately at North Carolina and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Ravens in 1998, but he didn't stick around - instead working at an electrical supply company for a year.  He got a phone call from Colts general manager Bill Polian in 1999, and the rest is history.  In his book The Game Plan: The Art of Building a Winning Football Team, Polian recalled offensive line coach Howard Mudd saying that the team would start Saturday off at guard but that he'd then be their starting center for the next decade.

That's precisely what happened.  Saturday spent 13 seasons with the Colts (1999-2011), serving as Peyton Manning's center for much of that time and becoming the most prolific quarterback/center duo of all-time.  Saturday played in 197 games with the Colts (starting 188), the fifth-most in team history.  In ten of his thirteen seasons, he played in all 16 games.  He was a part of 132 wins, and only two other players ever have experienced more wins with the team (Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning).  He was a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All-Pro.  In many ways, Saturday is the perfect representation of the Colts of the 2000s: undersized and underrated but hard-working and high character guys.

For as good of a player as Saturday was on the field, however, he was (and is) and even better person off of it, and his work in the community of Indianapolis is well-known.  It's not often that you see a number of fans wearing the jersey of the center, but that was the case in Indy as you would see #63 jerseys often.  And if you think it's rare to see fans wearing the jersey of the starting center, imagine that still happening four years after he left - because that's still what Colts fans do.  At training camp just this year, it wasn't a rarity to see a #63 Saturday jersey.  That's a legacy that speaks volumes for an offensive lineman.

When you think of the Indianapolis Colts and their remarkable run of success in the 2000s, you obviously think of Peyton Manning first, and then players like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Edgerrin James, and Jeff Saturday.  The starting center was certainly one of the keys to the team's success, and Saturday will fit right in among the rafters at Lucas Oil Stadium as a classic Colt who will be long-remembered, as tonight he goes into the Colts' Ring of Honor.  Congrats, Jeff.  This honor is very well-deserved, indeed.