INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It began with the 2006 world champions sharing a stylish dinner and memories Saturday night at the team’s West 56th Street complex and ended with the old and new version of the Indianapolis Colts chowing down Sunday evening at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse.
In between? Approximately 50 members of the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI champions enjoyed the warm, appreciative embrace of a sellout crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium during a halftime ceremony, and the current Colts made certain they didn’t mess up the occasion.
Initially, Andrew Luck dismissed the notion the presence of the former franchise icons had an impact on the current players. Then, he relented.
“Maybe a little. You never want to go out and embarrass yourself in front of one of the all-time great Colts teams, so maybe there was a little edge from that matter,’’ he said after Sunday’s 24-17 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Luck replaced Peyton Manning as the face of the franchise in 2012, and has a strong relationship with him. His formative years included attending Manning’s passing camp in Louisiana. Luck’s father, Oliver, was a backup quarterback for Peyton’s father, Archie.
“Grew up (as) my favorite player,’’ Luck said. “He was my sister’s favorite player.
“That family and him have been nothing but kind and generous to me, the whole family. I’ll always appreciate that.’’
Emotionally, the afternoon belonged to Manning, Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, Tarik Glenn, Joseph Addai, Bill Polian and so many others who returned for the 10th anniversary celebration of the Colts’ 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Everyone was introduced at halftime. Naturally, the loudest ovations were reserved for Manning, Wayne and Saturday. After the ceremony, Wayne trotted to the northeast corner of the end zone, where his fans had always resided.
Before walking off the field, Manning held the Lombardi Trophy, which owner Jim Irsay had situated on the field in front of the players.
“Last night was special, a lot of great stories going down memory lane,’’ Manning said. “We really appreciate the Colts and Mr. Irsay for flying everybody in. That is not normal.’’
The players were given airfare and weekend accommodations at the downtown Conrad.
Among the notable absentees from Sunday’s event was coach Tony Dungy and safety Bob Sanders. Dungy’s responsibilities as an NBC analyst forced him to miss the game, but Irsay dispatched his personal jet so Dungy could enjoy the Saturday night dinner.
Dungy will be on hand Thursday night, by the way, when he and Marvin Harrison receive their Hall of Fame rings during the Colts game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Throughout a press conference, the players stressed the closeness of the ’06 world champions.
“That team, nobody cared about any personal accolades,’’ Wayne said. “We just wanted to find a way to win and guys just relied on each other. Brother in arms, find a way to get it done, refuse to lose, that’s what I always say about that season, about that team.
“We’re family, man. We love each other. We’re family.’’
Manning focused on the permanency of the accomplishment.
“No doubt,’’ he said. “It’s a great saying: ‘They can never take it away.’ It’s permanent. It’s a bond unlike any other, this particular group.
“Last night couldn’t have been more special. Coach Dungy was here . . . and spoke, and Bill (Polian) spoke so we really did kind of have the band back together and hopefully do it in another 10 years.
“It was really special . . . can’t use that word enough for last night.’’
Perhaps the halftime ceremony – especially the presence of the Lombardi Trophy – will inspire the current Colts.
“As a current player it’s hard to sort of sit back and appreciate what they did,’’ Luck said. “But when you see a Lombardi Trophy on the field with the team around it, that’s neat and that’s what we aspire to be.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.