The two men standing together
in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room had little in common.
One plays football for a living, the other plays fantasy football “religiously.”
One will soon turn 200 mph laps in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The other is a fast talker.
The one standing at his locker can boast about starting his sixth season at the height of his chosen profession. The visitor, leaning against the row of metal lockers designated for Colts rookies, is a rookie full of potential in a different sport.
Maybe the only thing Colts punter Pat McAfee and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Austin Dillon have in common is their struggle to be considered athletes—one by football fans, and the other by a certain retired quarterback named Donovan McNabb.
The contrast made it hard to look elsewhere when Dillon, the 24-year-old driver for Richard Childress Racing, visited the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center last week for a media-op meet-and-greet with McAfee and Colts long-snapper Matt Overton.
It was surreal: Three men standing on a practice field attempting to get to know each other as local TV-news cameras took it all in.
The obligatory photos with sponsors were taken, gifts were given (cowboy hats from Dillon, a customized jersey from the Colts), and punts were fielded, with a catch from Dillon eliciting a cry of “for Donovan McNabb!” from McAfee.
Soon the TV rounds were done, and the cameras disappeared. The trio headed toward the weight room. “Austin, this is where we get yoked up,” McAfee proclaimed as they entered. He sat on a weight bench, Overton flanking him to the right, both still wearing the cowboy hats.
When asked about his workout routine, Dillon mentioned CrossFit.
“How much weight do you lose in a race?” McAfee asked.
“Five to six pounds,” Dillon replied. A stock car’s cockpit can reach 124 degrees.
“I need to do that before camp,” McAfee quipped.
Dillon described a wreck he had last year on the final lap of a race at Talladega Superspeedway that saw him catching air.
“We were coming to the checkered [flag], and the fourth-place guy hooked me,” Dillon said, using his hands to give a visual reference. “I came back across everybody, but luckily [the car] turned back out, and the guy in front of me hit me in the back, and I went up in the air.”
“Is that the craziest wreck you’ve ever had?” McAfee asked.
“You know how in Talladega Nights, [Ricky Bobby] is flying through the air, and he’s like, ‘I’m flying through the air right now’?” Dillon asked. “It’s like slowing down. It’s like that. ‘Holy sh_t, I’m flying through the air right now.’ Everything slows down, too, when that happens. It got quiet. Like there’s nothing going on.”
“Did you give a little piece of your mind to the dude who hit you?” asked Overton.
“Yeah, but it was the white flag,” said Dillon.
“Who was it?” asked McAfee
“Ricky?” McAfee offered. Dillon confirmed it. “I cannot believe I got his name right,” said McAfee.
Dillon, a fan of the Carolina Panthers, innocently brought up a topic that gripped professional football during the 2013 season.
“Do you guys haze?” asked Dillon.
“One story gets out [and people think it’s a problem],” McAfee said, a tinge of frustration in his voice.
The NASCAR driver said the closest thing to hazing in his sport are the yellow stripes on rookies’ rear bumpers.
Dillon at one point said he also drove midget race cars.
“What did you say?” McAfee asked.
“Midgets,” Dillon repeated.
“You mean little people?” McAfee joked, going on to say that the Colts had to take sensitivity classes recently.
The trio compares personal vehicles, with Dillon driving a Chevy, same as on the track. Overton bowed his head in mock shame, looked up, and admitted, “I drive a big Toyota, but it looks really nice.”
McAfee told the story of being offered a free vehicle from Toyota but turning it down because he only drives American. “For the next two weeks I got e-mails saying how ‘American’ Toyotas are,” he said.
“Whose locker is cleaner?” Overton later asked Dillon after showing him his own, complete with a box of Hostess Zingers.
Dillon found himself standing next to the lockers reserved for the Colts’ rookie draft picks. Overton nicknamed them the “yellow stripe” lockers. After the trio discussed superstitions, Dillon brings up the next weekend’s Sprint Cup race in Daytona again, inviting McAfee to be his guest. McAfee got excited, because he didn’t think he had plans for the night of July 5.
“Can I get a plus-one on that?” the punter asked.
The two exchanged contact information.
The two Colts shared humorous stories from their time on the team, including one where McAfee got stuck with coin-toss duty.
“I wasn’t ready for it, either,” said McAfee. “Usually, Reggie [Wayne] calls it, or somebody else. I’m just walking out … I’m just not there. Just tell me which way you want to kick. The second before the [referee] asks, Reggie goes, ‘You’re calling it.’ I go, ‘Oh, boy. Heads.’ We win. I didn’t know what the hell we wanted to do. I didn’t know what the right answer was. Reggie runs away, Cory [Redding] runs away. I’m just standing there having a conversation with the ref. I just completely guessed what we wanted. Chose kicking off in the wrong direction.”
Soon it was time for Dillon to depart for another obligation. As the trio went their separate ways, Dillon walked through the complex’s parking lot, tossing a football up in the air.
“I should’ve have been a cornerback,” he said.
Photos by Daniel McFadin