It’s Time To Embrace The Philip Rivers Era

Photo: Getty Images

On Thursday night, the Colts beat the Tennessee Titans and took control of the AFC South. 

During the game, Philip Rivers was remarkable – passing for over 300 yards and one touchdown. But in the course of that, Rivers did something even more remarkable – he passed Dan Marino’s 61,361 yards to move into fifth place for total passing yards in the NFL – taking his place behind Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre.

These are legends of the game and the longer he plays, the more Rivers establishes himself as such. 

Colts fans are accustomed to seeing greatness at quarterback – so much so, I think we sometimes take it for granted. 

Watching Peyton Manning’s 14-year career followed by Andrew Luck’s seven years (or slightly less due to injury), we were the envy of the NFL. 

But as Peyton said, nothing lasts forever.

It’s not easy to move on and let go of the past, especially years as special as those.

But last night, watching Philip Rivers move into the top five in NFL history got me thinking. 

Every team wants a franchise quarterback –  a guy to grow with, build around, become the face of the team and if you’re lucky, the face of the league.

But until you find Mr. Right, you have to find Mr. Right Now. 

For the Colts, Mr. Right Now is Philip Rivers.

Rivers is a brilliant quarterback, a passionate leader, and a tireless competitor.

More importantly, he’s all in. 

Philip Rivers wants to be in Indianapolis and wants to be a Colt. 

He’s going to give everything he has to his team and its fans. 

And it’s time we show him the same level of commitment. 

Because some day, he’s going to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s going to talk about how special it was to be able to continue to play the game he loves in Indianapolis. And we’re going to look back on it  and think it was pretty special too. 

It’s easy to get caught up in who the next quarterback will be. 

It’s easy to compare your current quarterback to the last one.

Andrew Luck was no Peyton Manning. 

Philip Rivers is no Andrew Luck. 

But Philip Rivers has something Andrew Luck did not (at least at the end of his career) – a burning desire to play football, chase greatness, and leave a legacy in the game he loves.

Colts fans, let’s close that door. 

Andrew Luck isn’t walking through it anyway.

Let’s embrace Philip Rivers for who he is – the right guy for this team right now. 

Let’s get behind him. 

Let’s go on a run. 

Let’s enjoy every minute of this era of Colts football… 

Because when it’s over, I guarantee you we’ll look back on it as special.    

This entry was posted in Colts.

Cash Ballard Gets Dramatic New Look For Friends Fighting Cancer

Two years ago, Cash Ballard walked into a salon with should-length hair and walked out with a short crop, donating his long blonde locks to child cancer patients. 

The youngest son of Colts General Manager Chris Ballard and his wife, Kristin, that was the last time Cash cut his hair.

But with a little prodding from his middle school football coach – this month, he decided to do it again. 

“He bet me if I were to cut it in the next week or two, I’d get to go in at running back for a few plays,” he said.

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – on September 11th, Cash walked into a salon in Carmel and had his long, blonde hair chopped off once again. 

“It makes me super proud to know that he’s helping somebody and that he doesn’t even know he’s helping somebody,” said Kristin Ballard. “He’s not doing it for the publicity or anything like that – but if we can bring awareness to pediatric cancer, we’re all for it.”

Colts guard Quenton Nelson was Cash’s hair inspiration. 

His real inspiration came from the heart – his friends, Cameron Kirk and Mason Garvey. 

Captain Kirk and Mighty Mason became fast friends as they battled child cancer together. 

During that time, the Colts and the Ballard family came into their lives and battled alongside them. 

“We were invited to a Colts game and we were down on the field,” said Cameron’s mom, Carrie Kirk. “I was chatting with this lady who was dressed all in blue and white. I had no idea who she was. She asked me how I was doing and we just chatted about life. It took me a few minutes before I realized who I was talking to. Over the course of time, we’ve developed a friendship. It’s been wonderful.”

The families bonded and so did their kids. 

During one particular outing, Kirk saw something special begin to develop between their sons.   

“We were bowling and Cash and Cameron went to shoot baskets. Basketball was what he was doing when he first got sick. We hadn’t been able to get Cameron to shoot baskets,” she said. “And we saw something in him that we hadn’t seen in a long time – he was trying. Cash was playing with him like he would any other boy – but at the same time, he was being so kind and understanding that Cam couldn’t do things like other boys his age.”

Since then, the two have become buddies – talking, facetiming, and playing video games together.

It’s been a blessing for Cameron and his parents. 

“I prayed for Cash. I didn’t know who it was going to be, but I needed someone to come into Cameron’s life who would really be his friend for who he was,” Kirk said. “He was an athlete before this happened and cancer took that away the last couple years because he physically couldn’t do it. The boys he grew up with didn’t know how to handle that.”

They even changed schools in search of a fresh start for their son.   

“Cam came to us and said, ‘I want to go someplace where the kids don’t know me and they don’t know how I was before I got sick.’” 

In June, Mason lost his battle with rhabdomyosarcoma. For a child with cancer, losing a friend to cancer is particularly traumatic. 

“I know he was worried that he was next. We had lost three friends in a year’s timeframe. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be the last friend we lose,” Kirk said. “It’s tough knowing that I have to have that conversation with all of my kids. It’s a tough one to swallow, but it’s part of our life now.”

One of the only people Cam would talk to about Mason was Cash. 

“Those boys have been there for each other and they’ve had conversations about their faith and things you don’t normally hear two 13-year-old boys talk about,” she said. “I think that’s why he and Cameron get along so well – because they are two old souls.”

Cancer doesn’t just affect the patient.

Grin&Barrett Photography

“It changes your whole family,” said Kirk. “We don’t want people to understand how we feel. Because if they understand, that means they’re going through it.” 

“The thing I always tell them is, ‘I can’t understand what you’re going through, but I can be there for you,’” Ballard said. “I think about them constantly. I want to be there for them and help them. Their strength is beyond anything I could ever imagine.”

Cam celebrated the start of Child Cancer Awareness Month with his last chemotherapy treatment.

“It was pretty awesome that it turned out that way,” Kirk said. “That just happened to be when his chemo calendar ended.”

Now, Cam can work on being a kid again while Cash works on growing out his hair.

Two years from now, he should be ready to donate it again. And he hopes his football idol, Quenton Nelson, will join him.  

“He told me he was going to grow his hair out like mine and then he didn’t. I’m kind of disappointed in him,” he joked.

For Cash, a new look was no big deal –  but to Cam, it meant everything. 

“It meant a lot to Cameron,” Kirk said. “And I know Cam’s not the only kid with cancer that’s going to mean a lot to.”

This entry was posted in Colts.

Sad Sunday

Lucas Oil Stadium 2012

I don’t really have words to describe how weird it is not being at Lucas Oil Stadium today. 

I was born a Vikings fan. In 2004, I moved to Indianapolis and accidentally fell in love with the Colts. Colts Nation adopted me and welcomed me as one of their own.  

I’ve been in the stadium for every home opener since 2004 and have only missed a handful of Colts home games over the past 16 seasons. 

With the help of Peyton Manning, I turned my mom into a Colts fan. 

My parents moved here in 2017. My dad is still a Vikings fan and today, on the week of his birthday, our two teams are playing on a beautiful Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. We planned to have a big group of family and friends in town to go to the game. But like so many others, we won’t be there. 

It will probably be eight years before the Colts and Vikings play again in Indianapolis. As we’ve learned, a lot can change in a year. 

I hope and pray that in 2028, our family can gather in Indy, tailgate, and cheer on our team(s). I also hope the Colts have a few more banners hanging in Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Until then, we’ll carry on – appreciating the things we can do and the memories we made doing the things we used to do. 

Thank you, Colts Nation, for taking in a wayward Vikings fan so many years ago. The memories I’ve made and the relationships I’ve formed as a fan of this team are special, sacred, and something I don’t take for granted. 

I look forward to making many more in the years to come. 

In the meantime, be safe, be strong, and GO COLTS! 

This entry was posted in Colts.

Goodbye to The Greatest

Getty Images

Over the years, the Colts have had many players come and go – some were great, a few were among the best. But only one can truly be called The Greatest. 

The numbers speak for themselves. The all-time leader in NFL points and field goals, Adam Vinatieri is the greatest kicker of all time. 

Automatic Adam, known by his teammates as Vinny, former Colts coach Tony Dungy just called him Money – you could see him mouth it on game day after every made field goal. 

As Colts fans, we were so confident in our kicker that a lot of the time, we didn’t even watch him kick. We knew where that ball was going – and so did he. 

During my five years covering the Colts for the team, I bonded with Vinatieri over our age (I’m a week older), our northern roots (he grew up in South Dakota, I grew up in Minnesota), our love of 80s rock and fashion.

Along with being the greatest kicker of all time, Vinatieri also gets my vote as the best dressed Colts player of all time.

But he’s also a great man, a great husband, a great father, a great teammate, and a great American.

The greatest kicker of all time once sat in the hallway at the Colts facility waiting patiently for me while I interviewed a rookie player about his dog. I offered to pause the interview, ask him my question, and send him on his way – but he politely refused. 

Adam Vinatieri wanted no favors or special treatment. He was just another player and that’s how he wanted to be treated.

Except, he wasn’t. 

He was The Greatest. Is The Greatest. And will be The Greatest for a very long time. 

I used to joke that I would have to retire when he did. And as the 2020 season kicks off, neither of us find ourselves on an NFL roster. 

Vinatieri once told me that when he was done, he didn’t want a big announcement or celebration, no pomp and circumstance. “I’m just going to disappear,” he said. 

Whether it happens now or in the future, we know where he’ll reappear five years later – in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame – where he’ll take his place among the greatest to play the game. 

Adam Vinatieri didn’t need football. He would have been successful at anything he did. But the teams he played for needed him. 

Thank you, Adam, for giving everything you had to the Colts, the city of Indianapolis, and the fans. Thanks for doing it with class. And thanks for inspiring us to be the best we can be at whatever we do. That, more than anything, will be your legacy.  

Greatness is hard to define. 

The greatest is not. 

Adam Vinatieri is the greatest. 

And that’s how he’ll be remembered in Indianapolis, in his hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota, and eventually in Canton, Ohio. 

This entry was posted in Colts.

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.