INDIANAPOLIS – When the final gun sounded at Sunday’s Pro Bowl, Jeff Saturday’s distinguished playing career came to a close.
Saturday joined the Colts in 1999 as a free agent, and he wound up starting 188 of 197 appearances with the club through 2011 before opening 14 games this past season with Green Bay.
Saturday was a sturdy presence in the middle for the Colts, starting 16 games in 10 of 13 seasons. After opening two of 11 outings at left guard in 1999, he helped anchor a line that paved the way for Indianapolis to produce 5,000 net yards in 13 straight seasons, while the club topped 400 points 10 times.
Saturday was a part of 132 career regular-season wins with the club, tying Hall-of-Famer John Unitas for second-most behind Peyton Manning (141). Only 14 players in franchise history ever have reached the century total in victories.
Saturday’s 13 seasons with the Colts rank behind only Unitas (17) and Manning (14), and he is tied with Raymond Berry, Marvin Harrison, Ray Donaldson and Gino Marchetti, among others.
Saturday and Manning both appeared in 19 playoff games, setting the club record. Saturday’s 197 career regular-season games with the Colts tie Rohn Stark for fourth-most. The total ranks behind Manning (208), Unitas (206) and Eugene Daniel (198). In his last season with the club, Saturday moved past David Lee (188) and Marvin Harrison (190) in games played.
“What a great honor it is to have your name mentioned with Johnny Unitas. It is really special when that happens,” said Saturday after that season. “I’m just honored to be in the stat category of guys who have contributed to victories. I loved getting those wins. It’s an honor to do it. It was an accomplishment that involved a lot of teammates, and that makes it special, too.”
Saturday and Manning placed themselves in league history by starting 170 games as a quarterback-center duo. They snapped the previous mark of 160 set by Minnesota’s Fran Tarkenton and Mick Tingelhoff. The Colts held a 120-50 record (.706) with the starting duo.
Saturday played along with Colts teams that won eight division titles (1999, 2003-07, 09-10), two conference championships and a world championship (Super Bowl XLI). From 2000-09, the Colts won 115 regular-season games, the highest decade total in history.
Among Saturday’s individual honors were six Pro Bowl selections (2005-07, 09-10, 12) and four All-Pro nominations (2005-07, 09).
His work off the field was highlighted in 2011 in labor negotiations with the NFL. Saturday had a key voice in the proceedings that resulted in an agreement without any work stoppage.
Saturday’s last appearance in Lucas Oil Stadium was on October 7 of this past season, a game won by the Colts, 30-27.