For a lot of people in the Midwest, particularly in Indiana, it is just as important that professional athletes positively reflect the city, state, and community off of the field as it is that they achieve on-field success. Hoosiers will not tolerate a professional team that includes players who are continually public nuisances, break the law, and generate press that negatively reflects on and negatively impacts the community. Players like Pacman Jones, Vince Young, Albert Haynesworth, Cedric Benson, and Brandon Marshall are not the kind of players off-field that the Colts will typically target in free agency.
Consider how positively most Colts players display community service, professionalism on and off of the field, intelligence, and a hard work ethic. While no team is perfect, as players are human beings and make mistakes too, very rarely will any kind of repeat offenses be tolerated. Key defensive tackle Ed Johnson, who was arguably the most talented nose tackle in Indianapolis after Booger McFarland’s career ended, was charged with speeding and marijuana possession and was cut less than 24 hours later. The team took a chance with Johnson from the get-go, as he had a history of drug related problems in college and informed him that he was on a one-strike and your out policy. Head Coach Jim Caldwell was willing to give him a second chance a year later but he was cut after only a brief stay.
Peyton Manning is a leader in the community and was awarded the Indiana National Pathfinder Award for all of his charitable works. Few players go so far out of their way to regularly give to underprivileged youth, nor to positively represent their team’s home city as Manning. ESPN covered the story in June last year.
Gary Brackett is also one of the league’s most recognized charitable contributors. He earned the NFL’s Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian Award in 2009, has created the IMPACT Foundation to benefit children affected by cancer, and works alongside Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with the Pennies for Patients program.
Jeff Saturday and his wife Karen were named the Indianapolis Susan G. Komen Individual Lifetime Achievement Award Winner’s for 2010, for their efforts to find a cure for breast cancer. They are also highly involved in the People’s Burn Foundation.
In his first season as a full-time starter (2009), Pierre Garcon made a huge impression on the NFL and football fans around the country. After Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake, Garcon not only put up impressive playoff performances — the best games of his career — he also used the big stage as an opportunity to start the Pierre Garcon Helping Hands Foundation — which has been raising money to support Haiti since June of 2010.
Many others on the team are actively engaged in community service, and the franchise places a great deal of emphasis on that involvement from the moment they are approached in the draft or free agency.
Tony Dungy’s culture of quiet strength, Marvin Harrison’s career of allowing his performances do his celebrations for him, and the over-achieving of players like Gary Brackett, Jeff Saturday, Kyle DeVan, and Robert Mathis all add their own elements to representing the blue color state of Indiana in the way Hoosiers would desire. Very little flash and flair is ever a part of the way Colts players conduct themselves, and yet the franchise has been setting league records for regular season success, has won a Super Bowl, and fields one of the most talented teams in the NFL almost every year.
Most Colts fans would have a hard time identifying with the antics of personalities like Rex Ryan, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, or even question-marks about potential cheating like those that surround Indy’s nemesis — the Patriots.
It’s funny really. There are times when Colts fans will get upset that this talented franchise does not get the attention that it deserves. But when it comes down to it, most Colts fans probably like it that way anyway.