Colt Following: Four Memorable NFL Encounters
Peyton Manning. Jim Irsay. Eric Dickerson, and Steve Emtman—remember him?
I didn’t think high-school econ would include a section on NFL history. March 7, 2012, proved me wrong.
I’d heard rumblings from my more sports-oriented friends that Peyton Manning, his previous season spoiled by neck injury, had been jetting around to meet with other teams. No way, I thought, plumbing the admittedly shallow depths of my own football knowledge. Peyton Manning is bigger in Indiana than corn.
After lunch, I left the dingy cafeteria of Lawrence Central, my alma mater, and walked to Mr. Weir’s economics class, one of the last obstacles between me and graduation. I was expecting a breezy rundown on supply and demand. For the first few minutes, that’s what I got.
Then, suddenly, Mr. Weir fired up the classroom projector and pulled down the screen. At first I thought we were watching a movie, which happened absurdly often in that class. But Mr. Weir started surfing through channels until Peyton Manning appeared on the screen and, choking back tears, said goodbye to the city of Indianapolis. The class stood still, transfixed by the press conference. Mr. Weir’s eyes glistened.
To put the moment in context: The only other televised event that ever preempted one of my high-school classes was Barack Obama’s first inauguration speech. This was the end of an era. I may not remember a whole lot from econ. But I remember that day. —Kevin Kryah
Jim Irsay Gets Beat
On May 22, 2001, the Colts owner burnished his reputation as a hepcat by putting his paws on the greatest artifact of the ’50s Beat Generation: Jack Kerouac’s original typed scroll of On the Road. The treasure cost Irsay a reported $2.2 million at auction—believed to be the highest sum ever paid for a literary manuscript.
Despite its value and cultural significance, however, Irsay was anything but discreet about showing off—and handling—his new prize, as IM staffers Tony Valainis and Evan Hale discovered when they met him for a photo shoot at the Colts’ headquarters on West 56th Street. “Most subjects would have just stood there behind the scroll, but instead he bowed down to it and pretended to eat it like an ear of corn,” says photographer Valainis, whose pictures from that day also show Irsay mock-threatening to cut the precious paper with scissors. “We didn’t ask him to do anything. He just did it.”
Nor was Irsay afraid to show off his wealth, even when Indy taxpayers were tossing a penalty flag at his claim that the Colts weren’t pulling in enough revenue. “One time during the shoot he displayed a large sum of cash, saying, ‘Hey, I got it,’” remembers then–deputy art director Hale. “He was perfectly fine with that. He had money coming out of his suit like he was made of it.” —Alexis Hobbs
In 1987, the Colts landed Dickerson in a three-team, 10-player trade, giving up the rights to Cornelius Bennett, Owen Gill, and three draft picks. A year later, I got him for $2,000.
I made the blockbuster move in September 1988 after launching my own publication, Sports Fan, Indiana’s Sports Magazine. My associate editor and I hatched a plan: contract Dickerson, the cover-boy of our inaugural issue, to sign autographs on that first installment of Sports Fan. The running back had already done wonders in Indy, leading the Colts to their first playoffs since 1977. We figured he could jump-start our magazine, too.
Dickerson came aboard for the aforementioned sum—and even sweetened the deal by offering up head coach Ron Meyer. Galyan’s, the old sporting-goods retailer, hosted the event at its Castleton location, and we plugged it on local radio. About 400 autograph-seekers (and potential subscribers!) showed up. My stars were great sports, and fans lined up out the door and down the sidewalk for them. When it was over, I shook hands with Meyer (great grip) and Dickerson (surprisingly feeble), and we went our separate ways.
Dickerson played four-plus seasons with the Colts, won a rushing title, and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sports Fan didn’t have
such a happy ending: We hung up our cleats after one season. Still, I think the money was well-spent. I paid a couple grand for two Dickerson autographs: one on a magazine cover, the other on the back of a cashed check. —Mike Botkin
Colts Nab First Two Picks in 1992 NFL Draft
Few ask me for style advice. Fewer still ask me in a public restroom. But one summer night in 1992 at The Vogue, a couple of months after his splashy selection, Steve Emtman, the Colts’ top pick, drafted me to validate his grunge-era ensemble.
As I was finishing my business at the farthest end of the empty room, an enormous man barreled through the door. A firm believer that men’s-room chitchat and eye contact should be avoided, I did my best to ignore the Colts rookie. But, to my chagrin, the defensive lineman approached. And what began as an acceptable buffer—four urinals, as I recall—dissipated as Emtman continued his advance. In short order, there were three urinals between us. Then two. One.
This is where it all ends, I thought, in a dirty bathroom, and I dribbled a little on my khaki shorts.
“What do you think of these?” he asked.
Emtman kicked up his oversized calf and tilted the lower half of his leg at an awkward angle. He was rocking a tie-dye shirt and denim shorts held up by one of those knitted Rasta belts, but he pointed to his foot. “Are these sandals gay?”
I didn’t know exactly what to say about his Birkenstocks, but I knew what not to. “Very cool, dude,” I offered.
Pleased, he left as quickly as he’d appeared. I zipped up—relieved.
A pair of horrific knee injuries robbed Emtman of a significant NFL career (and that year’s second overall pick, linebacker Quentin Coryatt, didn’t fare much better). Most Colts fans recall Emtman’s time in Indy ending in a tearful ride on the back of a golf cart, headed for the locker room. Last time I checked, he ran a construction and real-estate company. But I like to imagine he could’ve had a promising career as a well-heeled bathroom attendant. —Michael Rubino
This article appeared in the September “30 for 30” feature, a roundup of the most memorable moments in Indianapolis Colts history.