United We Stand – Divided We Fall

Photo: Matt Bowen/Colts


Sunday was a day like no other in the National Football League.

I was standing on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium when a news alert came across my phone. The Pittsburgh Steelers would stay in the locker room during the National Anthem.

Stunned and heartsick, I looked around our stadium as the fans began to fill the seats wondering what the day would hold.

I was still on the field when the National Anthem began. As I stood watching, a chorus of boos broke out. At first, I was shocked. Who would boo during the anthem? I looked down the field and saw Browns players on one knee. I didn’t find out until afterwards that there were Colts players kneeling as well.

When I finished gathering my stories and made it up to my seat, my mom was teary. Not because of the players who took a knee, but because of the boos that rained down from above.

“I never thought I would hear booing during our National Anthem,” she said.

And neither did I.

Sports are a reflection of society and this is where we are – more divided than ever. And not just on the football field.

How many neighbors quit talking to each other after the last election? How many families can’t discuss politics around the dinner table? The NFL is a family. And just like your family, different people have different opinions about what’s happening in our country and our world.

We didn’t arrive here overnight and we won’t fix it overnight. But one thing is clear – we have to stop looking for someone to bring us together. We’ve been doing that for too long – and in the process, we’re only being pulled farther and farther apart.

Some people watched Sunday’s game and saw a team and a fan base divided. I saw a team that linked arms in support of each other, some players standing, some kneeling, and then went out and worked together to win a football game – while the fans cheered them on.

As a society, we need to find a way to do the same thing. It’s up to us to come together. And maybe, just maybe – like it has so many times, football can help us do that.

We’re going to have different leaders and different players, tides will turn, games will change and so will the times.

But at the end of the day, we’re all we’ve got.

There’s a lot of noise out there right now.

Photo: Matt Bowen/Colts

But the sound I heard loudest on Sunday was the voice of a fan base cheering on their team.

And that’s a pretty good start.

Dear Peyton

Dear Peyton,

I’m sitting in my seat overlooking an empty field at Lucas Oil Stadium. We just finished a promotional shoot for the Letters To Peyton campaign and it occurred to me that I hadn’t written my letter to you – and I should have been the first to do it, because I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for you.

I went to my first Colts game in September of 2004. I was new to Indianapolis and my husband (my boyfriend at the time) was a longtime season ticket holder. I grew up a Vikings fan in Minnesota, so I was thrilled to see the Colts beat the Green Bay Packers that day. I could hardly wait for November, when the Vikings came to the RCA Dome to play the Colts on Monday Night Football. What I didn’t know then, was that by the time that game came around, I would already be a Colts fan. That’s how quickly you won me over.

Watching you throw the football to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, I became your biggest fan and your toughest defender. While Jeff Saturday protected you from the front, I had your back.

Through the celebratory victories and the agonizing defeats, the Colts became my team, Indianapolis became my city, and the fans became my people. During that time, my boyfriend also became my husband. I don’t necessarily credit the Colts with that, but it probably didn’t hurt.

Those years were special – not only because of the success you had on the field, but because of the success we enjoyed off the field because of it. What you did for our city, our state, and the game of football was unprecedented.

Then suddenly, unpredictably, it was over.

I couldn’t quite grasp how I felt when you and the Colts parted ways. It was hard to even talk about it, so I did what I do best – and wrote. I started a blog, started another one, and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was like therapy for me – and what I discovered, was that it was also therapy for others. And when you came back to play the Colts as a Bronco, I wrote a story on my conflicted heart. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one – because it went viral. Football fans all over the world could feel my pain. I gained an audience and bonded with them through the joy and heartache of being a fan.

A few years later, the Colts started a blog, Colts Roundup. And guess who they brought in to write it? Now starting my third season with the team, I’m living my dream. And it all started with you.

Thank you, Peyton, for everything – the wins, the losses, the playoff games, the Super Bowls, and every amazing memory we made along the way.

I look forward to seeing your statue outside of Lucas Oil Stadium and your name permanently inscribed inside it.

A fitting tribute to a man who changed the landscape of a city and the lives of so many – myself included.

Sincerely,

Heather Lloyd

To submit your letter to Peyton Manning, go to: http://www.colts.com/fanzone/contests-and-promotions/letters-to-peyton.html.

Matt Overton Has Special Place In Hearts Of Colts Fans

Photo: Matt Bowen

It was January, the last day of the season. The Colts locker room was almost empty, as most of the players had cleaned out their stuff and left. As I took one final sweep through, I found Matt Overton at the back of the locker room gazing into his empty locker. He took his fist and knocked each wall before turning to walk away.

“Hey,” he said, slightly surprised to see me.

“It’s not over, is it?” I asked.

“Nah,” he replied and gave me a hug.

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if he knew something I didn’t.

Looking back now, he did – that football is a business and there are no guarantees, that any day can be your last, and that you have to cherish every moment because you never know if you’ll get it back.

Photo: Matt Bowen

Overton’s road to the NFL was long and winding, going through the UFL (twice) the Seattle Seahawks (twice), and the Houston Texans before landing in Indianapolis. A member of the Fourth Down Army, he went to work alongside Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee, becoming a fan favorite, making the Pro Bowl, and growing into one of the best long snappers in the league.

Photo: Matt Bowen

The only thing more inspiring than watching him live his dream was watching him live his life.

Since arriving in Indianapolis in 2012, Overton embraced the team, the city, and the fans. When he wasn’t out in the community with the Colts, he was out in the community on his own – doing ride-alongs with IMPD, showing up at dance marathons, visiting cancer patients, and spending time with kids. He was truly “for the kids” from Riley Hospital, bringing them to games, taking them to concerts, escorting them to prom, and making them part of his family. And in the process, he became part of theirs.

Photo: Matt Bowen

He made Indianapolis his home and became a Hoosier – a better Hoosier than most Hoosiers, even though he’s from the West Coast. He bought a house, built a business, and his love for Indiana shined with everything he did.

Matt Overton packed up his locker for good today. This time, I wasn’t there to see it. He’s determined to play football somewhere and I hope he gets his wish.

As hard as it is to say goodbye, I know it’s not really goodbye. Matt Overton will always be part of Indianapolis, just like Indianapolis will always be part of him.

Photo: Matt Bowen

Thank you, Matt, for being the guy we could always count on – on the field and off, for giving of yourself in so many ways, and for inspiring us to do more, give more, and be more.

We wish you nothing but the best because that’s what you are – the best. And that’s how we’ll always remember you.

We’ll miss you on Community Tuesday, on game day, and every day.

Photo: Matt Bowen

But we’ll always have your back and we’ll be cheering you on wherever life takes you.

How A White Blouse From Banana Republic Became My Own Little Miracle

Last April, I was going to my niece Anna’s first communion in Minnesota. And because my work wardrobe consists mostly of Colts fanwear, I found myself in need of a white blouse to wear with my gray skirt. I found one that was church appropriate at Banana Republic. So with my outfit planned, I was on my way.

The service was at a St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Mahtomedi. I’m not Catholic – I was baptized Methodist, confirmed Lutheran, and at this point, I just consider myself a Christian – though I don’t regularly (ok, rarely) attend church.

But on that day, as the priest began the service, he asked us to imagine a world where we only spread positive things about others. It struck me for several reasons – in part, because I find the negativity in the world today both excessive and exhausting. But also because I feel like the work I do with the Colts is very much about spreading the good news – the things the players and the team do that no one talks about – the lives they touch and the people they inspire, myself included.

The message was to see the good in others, to say good things about people when they’re not around, and to spread love, happiness, and kindness.

I left the church feeling inspired – like maybe in my own little way, I was doing my part to make the world a better place. That somehow, by telling these stories, maybe I could inspire others to look for the good, to share the positive, and to spread the light.

I went home recharged and refocused to do just that.

A few weeks later, I pulled the blouse I wore out of the closet and put it on. But when I looked in the mirror, I noticed a few stains on it. I hadn’t worn it since the service and didn’t have it cleaned afterwards because I only had it on for a few hours.

I took the shirt off, laid it on my bed, and stared at it. What looked like stains from a distance were actually three crosses imprinted on the fabric. The rest of the shirt was spotless. I was so stunned, I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I hung the blouse back in my closet and that’s where it’s been ever since.

There are many things in life that can’t be explained. I do think God speaks to us and sends us signs – and that if you’re not paying attention, you may miss them.

So on this Easter Sunday, keep your eyes open, keep your mind open, and keep your heart open.

But most of all, keep the faith.

Happy Easter, God bless…

And Go Colts!

Mike Adams Showed Me An Indianapolis I Had Never Seen

When the Colts signed Mike Adams in 2014, they knew what kind of guy they were getting on the field – a team player who would work tirelessly, give of himself, and make those around him better.

What they didn’t realize was that they were getting a guy who would also work tirelessly off the field.

Mike Adams grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. He speaks often about the neighborhood that surrounded him.

“Mainly, the worst conditions possible.”

On the field, he’s a safety – the last line of defense. Off the field, he’s a safety net – a helping hand to those in need.

During his time in Indianapolis, Mike Adams spent countless hours getting hands-on in the community. He adopted a charter school, Phalen Leadership Academy. He made regular visits there, meeting with the staff and students, supporting and inspiring them in any way he could.

His charisma and million-dollar smile made Adams an instant fan favorite.

Aside from athletic ability, his infectious personality is perhaps his greatest gift. It’s a tool he uses to connect with others and those interactions are what fuel him.

Every year around Thanksgiving, he gathered his teammates and brought dinner to families in need. He didn’t want to drop it off at the school or the community center, he didn’t want to ask them to pick it up – he brought it to their door. He wanted to spend time with the families, hear the stories, hold the children, and hug the mothers.

Photo: Colts/Amber Derrow

Writing for Colts Roundup, I followed him as he dragged me into parts of the city I had never seen and opened my eyes to what was there.

When I drive by those same neighborhoods now, the ones that once made me shudder – I think about the families who live there – people I’ve met, smiled at, and shed tears with. I wonder how they’re doing and what we can do to help.

No matter where Mike Adams goes, he makes everyone around him better. He made the Colts better. He made the city of Indianapolis better. He made me better.

And I’ll always be grateful.

Thank you, Mike, for giving of yourself in every possible way, for leaving the community better than you found it, and for doing it all with a smile on your face and love in your heart.

You’ll forever be a Colt and I’ll forever be your fan.