Colts Surprise Coach Matt Eberflus With Drive-By 50th Birthday Celebration

With her husband’s 50th birthday coming up, Kelly Eberflus was planning a major celebration to mark the milestone.

“I was going to have a big 50th birthday party for him and invite all of our family and friends from all over to come in,” she said. “But then, all of this happened.” 

As the Coronavirus spread and the country shut down – like so many others, Kelly had to come up with another way to honor her husband. And seeing all the drive-by celebrations on social media inspired her. 

“I love parades. I always have. That’s what we did as kids. There was a Memorial Day parade, there was a Fourth of July parade, there was a Labor Day parade. I remember every year growing up as kids going to parades,” she said. “How fun was that?”

She sent out an email to give Matt’s colleagues a heads up – and the response she got back was huge. 

Going into his third season as defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts – Matt, or “Coach Flus” as he’s known to his players, is more comfortable letting them shine.     

“Matt is a low-key kind of guy. He does not like the spotlight at all,” Kelly said. “He’s so comfortable on the field doing what he does. But when it’s just focused on him, he doesn’t love that attention.”

And that makes it more fun for Kelly and his two daughters, Grace and Giada, to shower him with it.

They started out his birthday weekend by taking him to Cleveland to celebrate with family. 

While they were gone, Kelly had a huge sign put up in their yard. 

Sign by Sign Gypsies of Zionsville

“I had to turn the Ring doorbell off when they came to set it up because it sends alerts,” she laughed.

On Sunday, the day of his actual birthday, he threw her a surprise. 

“Matt said, ‘I think I want to stop and see my mom on the way home.’ And I was like, ‘Oh.’ Because we had everything timed out. I didn’t want to say, ‘No, you can’t go see your mom.’”

They left Cleveland early, swung through Toldeo to visit with his mom, and got home just in time to get ready for the real surprise.

“When we pulled into the driveway, he saw the yard sign. He was like, ‘Oh, you guys got me good!’ So I think at that point, he thought that was it.” 

The girls ran upstairs, got ready, and raced off on the golf cart to meet the guests in the parking lot down the street. 

As the cars pulled up, the girls greeted them. Colts chaplain Eric Simpson went car by car, checking in on the coaches and their families. When Head Coach Frank Reich pulled up, he did the same.

With Colts mascot, Blue, at the front of the line, it was time to start the parade.

Kelly told Matt the girls wanted him to come outside to take a family photo in front of the sign.  

“We walked out there and all of the sudden, he started hearing the horns honking – and then he saw Blue.” 

One after another, Matt was greeted with carloads of birthday love and well wishes.

“It really touched him,” Kelly said. “He got to see each person individually when they came by. I was so thankful that people thought it was important enough to come and drive by.”

From General Manger Chris Ballard to Frank and Linda Reich, Offensive Coordinator Nick Sirianni, Special Teams Coordinator Bubba Ventrone, and many, many others – it wasn’t just a chance to see Coach Eberflus, it was a chance to see each other. 

“It’s great to have Zoom and FaceTime, but it’s still not the same,” said Kelly. “You can never underestimate the power of human face-to-face interaction. The positivity that has, especially when you’re dealing with coaches and the team and people that work together – that’s a morale booster.”

It all made for a memorable birthday. 

“We’ll never forget it because it was his 50th, but the fact that it happened during the pandemic and this social distancing thing – it was unique in itself because of that.”

From weddings to graduations, the COVID-19 virus has called off countless events this year.

But it can’t shut down the celebrations.   

“That’s the thing about America, people always adjust,” Kelly said. “They find a way to make it work.”

On Sunday, the Colts gathered to celebrate one of the their own.

And seeing each other in person was a gift to everyone.    


I’m A Free Agent

All good things must come to an end – and that’s especially true in 2020.

During this strange and uncertain time, businesses have tough decisions to make. And the Indianapolis Colts are no exception. On Friday morning, I got the call that my dream job was eliminated.

I knew it wouldn’t feel real until I shared this news with all of you – my family, my friends, my fellow fans – the people who gave me a platform to begin with.

For five years, I had the honor and the privilege of writing for the team I love. From the players and coaches to the mascot, the cheerleaders, the groundskeeper, the families, and the fans – everyone has a story. And I loved telling every one of them.

I’m grateful to the Colts and the Irsay family for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m grateful to the players for opening their hearts to me and trusting me to share what’s inside. And I’m grateful for the people, the memories, and the friendships that will stand the test of time.

Last week, I joined a group I didn’t sign up for – The Unemployed Sportswriters of America. An eternal optimist, I’m doing my best to keep it in perspective. After all, things could be much worse. As my dad said, “At least they didn’t trade you to Cleveland.”

I’m a free agent now. And just like the players released by the Colts, I’m sad my time is over, but I’m excited about what’s to come.

I look forward to relaunching my brand on my platform and continuing to tell the stories I love in new and different ways.

We’ve all suffered losses this year – family time, special times, a sense of normalcy and belonging. Some have lost friends, loved ones, and businesses. None of us are coming out of this unscathed and my heart goes out to each and every one of you.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that connecting with people is the most important, most powerful, and most meaningful thing we do. Going forward, I hope to do it more, better, and with greater passion than ever before.

Thank you for believing in me, inspiring me, and supporting me.

I’ll have more for you in the weeks and months to come. 

Until then, stay tuned.

And stay healthy.

XO

This entry was posted in Colts.

Ode To Eli Manning

Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty

As a Colts fan, I was lucky enough to have Peyton Manning as my quarterback.

The fact that he had a little brother who also played in the NFL was a bonus. 

When the Colts played in primetime (which they did a lot during the Peyton Manning era), I always watched the Giants during the earlier games. Eli was a lot like Peyton, but he was also a lot unlike him – and I appreciated both aspects of Peyton and Cooper’s baby brother.

As the youngest of three boys, it would be easy to paint yourself in their likeness. But Eli never did that. He was unapologetically himself – before he came into the NFL and after. 

I always think about what players teach young people by how they conduct themselves on and off the field. Eli was always a guy you could point to and say, “Be like him” – hardworking, humble, kind, and he never took himself too seriously.

As the years went on, the younger brother of my quarterback started to feel like my young brother. I was always looking out for him, defending him against his critics, and cheering for him on gameday. 

When Eli won his first Super Bowl, I couldn’t have been prouder – especially because it was against our arch rivals, the New England Patriots. I remember at the time saying the only way I could have been happier would have been watching my own team win – which I did the season before. 

In a stunning fourth quarter drive, Eli led the Giants to victory with a third down throw that David Tyree somehow took to the ground against his helmet (now referred to as the helmet catch). 

Not only did the Giants beat the Patriots, they ruined their quest for a perfect season – allowing the 1972 Dolphins to pop the champagne bottles once again, as the only NFL team in history to go undefeated all season.   

But it was Eli’s second Super Bowl that we Colts fans owe him a debt of gratitude for.

I’ll set the scene for you, in case you’ve forgotten. 

It was February of 2012 and Indianapolis was hosting the Super Bowl. Peyton was out all season with a neck injury and uncertainty about his future was rampant. Led by a cast of quarterbacks including Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, and Dan Orlovsky, the Colts were coming off a 2-14 season and speculation about their future swirled amongst the festivities. 

In town to play in Super Bowl XLVI? The New York Giants – and the New England Patriots.

As the big game neared, I looked forward to Sunday with a sense of dread. For years, we speculated about the possibility of a Manning Bowl. But instead of my Colts taking the field against the Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium, it was the Patriots. The thought of the Patriots hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Lucas Oil Stadium was unbearable, yet all too real. 

There was only one man who could save us from this fate – Eli Manning. 

Once again, a brilliant fourth quarter drive by Eli and this time, a game winning touchdown by Ahmad Bradshaw, and the Giants defeated the Patriots once again – saving Colts fans from a fate worse than death.

I’ve always thought the Colts should honor Eli Manning by hanging his jersey somewhere in Lucas Oil Stadium. Maybe now that he’s retired, someone will make it happen.  

At the very least, Eli Manning shouldn’t pay for a drink in Indianapolis for the rest of his life. And for that matter, neither should his brother. Hell, the entire Manning family should drink for free in Indy. 

Thank you, Eli – for inspiring us on and off the field, for defeating our enemy (once on our soil), and for just being you. Because we never needed you to be anything but that. 

It makes me incredibly sad to know that for the first time in 22 years, I won’t see a Manning throwing a football in the NFL this season. 

It’s the end of an era – for now.

But I hold onto hope – that Cooper’s son, Arch, will end the drought we’re about to endure.

As Peyton said, “Nothing lasts forever.” 

But memories do. 

Thanks for giving us so many to cherish over the years. 

Good luck, God bless, and long live the Mannings.  

Dear Andrew Luck,

Photo: Matt Bowen/Colts

Dear Andrew Luck, 

I hope you know that watching you play at Stanford your senior year got me through that 2-14 Colts season. To me, you were a Colt before you ever put on the uniform. 

I hope you know that the day you walked through the door, I knew everything was going to get better. 

I hope you know that embracing you healed my heart after the Peyton Manning breakup – something I didn’t think was possible at the time. 

I hope you know that when Peyton returned as a Bronco and you led the Colts to a win, you also won the city.

I hope you know that watching you be unapologetically yourself only made us love you more. 

I hope you know that I was your teammate off the field – I always had your back, I always defended you, and I always took up for you.  

I hope you know that even from my seat, I was trying to protect you on game day. 

I hope you know how proud I always was to call you my quarterback.

I hope you know that watching you light up the faces of sick children brought just as much joy to me as it did to them. 

I hope you know that seeing you hurt, struggling, and sad stole some of my happiness as well.  

I hope you know that the people who booed when you left the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for the last time don’t represent the majority of Colts fans.

I hope you know that the future success of this team is something you helped build. 

I hope you know that the legacy you leave behind is so much bigger than football.

I hope you know that the best thing you can do for us now is to move on, live your life, and be happy.

I hope you know that no matter where you go and no matter what you do, I’ll be cheering for you – and not just on Sundays.

I hope Indianapolis is always your home. And even if it’s not, I hope it always feels like home.

Thanks for the memories, Andrew. 

I wish you love, luck, and happiness in the next chapter of life.  

To The NFL Wives

Life changes fast in football. One week, you’re on top of the world. The next week, you don’t even recognize your world.

In the NFL, change is inevitable. Even the team that wins the Super Bowl is never the same – coaches leave, players move on, it’s all part of the game.

My heart goes out to all of those men, their families, and of course, their wives.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of the Colts wives over the years. They’re impressive women in their own right – tough, smart, loving, and strong – they lean on each other and support their husbands, their families, and their team. These women hold down the fort, raise the children, and manage their lives while their husbands work long hours away from home.

It takes a special kind of woman to sign up for a football life. Just like their husbands, they eat, sleep, and breathe the game. Every win gives them a little more comfort and every loss leaves them wondering if changes will come.

“Don’t feel bad for us,” they say. “It’s what we signed up for.” They’re blessed with a lifestyle and privileges few enjoy. They know it and they’ll be the first to tell you – but that’s not what drives them.

The women I know are motivated by love for their husbands. They’re dedicated wives who put on a happy face so he has one less thing to worry about at the end of the day. They’re devoted mothers who carry on so their kids can have a normal childhood, even though they secretly worry about the next move and the uncertainty it brings.

The NFL is a small world and a big family.

As coaches and players move on, I wish them all the best. I’m grateful for the time they spent with us and everything they brought to our team and our community. And I know I’ll cross paths with them again some day.

But most of all, I’m glad to know they’ve got the women they have beside them every step of the way.