Super Bowl: Saturday takes unlikely path to Super Bowl

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 3, 2007

By Michael Marot

Associated Press

MIAMI — Jeff Saturday was just another football wannabe in 1998, working for an electric supply company in North Carolina. Now he’s about to start in the Super Bowl.

For Saturday, a two-time Pro Bowl center with the Indianapolis Colts, it’s been a long, winding journey.

“I went out and got a job and worked out in a gym afterward,” he said. “I was lucky because my wife always encouraged me to follow my dream.”

Saturday insists he never thought about things likes trips to Hawaii, playing in Super Bowls or even being a starter. All he really wanted was to prove he could play.

The doubters claimed he was too small at 295 pounds, too short at 6-foot-2 and too slow to make it in the NFL. Most wrote off his notion as a far-fetched fantasy when the Baltimore Ravens cut him during a mini-camp in 1998.

Saturday was not ready to give up.

Between work and workouts, Saturday found enough time to reach a deal with an Arena Football League team. Before starting that season, the Colts took a flier and brought Saturday into mini-camp.

Saturday managed to claim a roster spot. When he got a chance to play, he quickly proved that he belonged.

His first start came at Philadelphia in 1999, when he left guard Steve McKinney was out with an appendectomy. Saturday wound up earning a game ball.

“It’s a pretty incredible story,” offensive line coach Howard Mudd said. “You know how often offensive linemen get game balls?”

By 2000, the newcomer became so good that the Colts moved their starting center, Larry Moore, to left guard so Saturday could start. He’s missed only two games since then and has established himself as one of the league’s best centers.

The Colts have thrived on unknowns such as Saturday.

Nearly a quarter of their 53 active players are undrafted free agents.

It’s all part of Colts president Bill Polian’s plan.

“In Indy, everybody gets a shot, and I knew that,” Saturday said. “From Howard to Bill Polian to Jim Mora, at the time, they all took a look at the new guys.”

For Saturday, it worked out. For countless others, it didn’t.

And Saturday won’t forget those struggles when he hears his named called Sunday night.

“I’ve worked with some great guys, and it’s always fun working with friends,” Saturday said. “This offense has grown. It’s been fun. I never sit back and say ‘Wow.’ I look back now and say it was part of the journey.”