Saturday signs contract to retire with Colts

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The only time Saturday choked up was when he thanked his wife, Karen, for allowing him to pursue a football career. He then turned toward reporters and explained he couldn’t look at his wife because he would “lose it.” She wiped her eyes, too.

Saturday also thanked his three children, seated behind him in blue No. 63 jerseys, Irsay, his head coaches and position coaches, ex-teammates and even the equipment managers and trainers, some of whom watched from the back of the room.

His improbable journey actually started in Baltimore in 1998. The Ravens signed him as an undrafted rookie but cut him before training camp opened.

One year later, the Colts took a low-risk gamble on someone who had spent the previous year selling electrical supplies in North Carolina and he wound up making the roster. By 2000, he had won the starting center’s job, which he kept until leaving for Green Bay as a free agent last year.

With Indy, Saturday won two AFC titles, one Super Bowl ring, became a pillar in the community and made 170 starts with Manning behind him, an NFL record for a quarterback-center tandem.

“The relationship between a center and a quarterback is special. We loved each other but we could fight each other as well. We could bump heads and there was always a mutual respect,” Saturday said. “It never got any further than that. It was always on the field. Off the field, we were friends. He’s taken me to places and given me gifts and allowed me to do things that I would never have the opportunity to do.”

Asked for his favorite football moment, Saturday didn’t offer up the Super Bowl win.

“The AFC Championship game trumps them all for me,” he said, referring to the Colts’ second-half comeback against the Patriots in the 2006 playoffs. “Getting to recover a fumble for a touchdown, getting to slay the Patriots, all those things. That’s the one for me, even above the Super Bowl.”

Saturday said he will continue to make Indy his home and Irsay said Saturday will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. Irsay also has hired Saturday to work in the Colts’ community relations and marketing department and said there could be a future for Saturday on the coaching staff or in the front office.

“Here’s a man who came into the league, no one thought he was going to do much,” Irsay said. “He wasn’t a first-round draft pick and is an individual who literally took this town and this state over with his integrity, with his love for the community, with this performance on the field, just an absolutely incredible individual. Going through the lockout, how he played a huge role in getting that settled. It was just absolutely incredible how Jeff has made his mark in this league and for this franchise.”

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