Former professional football player and outspoken Christian Jeff Saturday was announced on Monday as the interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Although Saturday was an accomplished player for the team he’ll be coaching, the choice was a surprise to many in the NFL world since he has no college or NFL coaching experience.
He did, however, spend three years coaching football at Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Georgia from 2017-19. Saturday has also worked as a consultant for the Colts in addition to his analyst position at ESPN.
Parents and others at Hebron shared their congratulations under the school’s Facebook announcement about his hiring, with one mother saying, “My boys LOVED playing for him. They learned so much from him on and off the field!”
Colts owner Jim Irsay heartily defended his decision to hire Saturday after letting go of former head coach Frank Reich. Irsay said Saturday is “fully experienced enough” and “fully capable” to lead the team, and issued a challenge to all naysayers:
“Want to bet against this guy? Put your money down. [I’d] love to see it, because I know what he’s about.”
Irsay took over as owner of the Colts in 1997, witnessing Saturday’s entire career as a player, which spanned 13 decorated seasons before his retirement in 2012. The former center was a six-time pro-bowler, and helped the team win a Super Bowl in 2007.
In his introductory press conference, Saturday indicated the job offer was unexpected, sending him into a “12-hour whirlwind” of praying through the decision and talking it over with his wife, Karen.
After recognizing the job as an opportunity to encourage and mentor men through the avenue of football, two of his life’s greatest passions, Saturday took the leap.
“I’ve gleaned a lot and I continue to try and grow as a leader, but I think that’s probably my strongest quality, is I’m a leader of men. I don’t shy away from it and [I am] excited about it. That’s my passion and I love it. Football just so happens to fit that mold. But that’s what I love — when I can do the two things I love, I can lead a group of men and coach football, I’m not going to say no to that,” he said.
Saturday hopes to impact and change young men’s lives for the better, the way his life changed when he arrived in the NFL. Saturday was not a Christian when he entered the league, but when he joined the Colts in 1999, veterans Tony McCoy and Mark Thomas took him under their wings and discipled him into a mature faith.
“I never had to be the guy who beat the Bible in the locker room,” Saturday explained after retirement. “I just tried to live my life differently and left the opportunity for people to ask me questions. And it was amazing how quickly I gained credibility in the locker room for being a guy who was different and being a guy who people could depend on and ask advice from.”
Saturday has acknowledged his relative inexperience in head coaching is a factor in the challenge he faces this year, but that ultimately his role is in God’s hands.
“He’s ultimately in charge of all the results, and so as long as I’m doing my part of doing what I feel led to do – prayerful, grateful, the way that I’m going to live – and I feel like I’m moving in the direction that God has asked me, the results part is now in His hands,” he told Sports Spectrum.
Whether Saturday can turn the team around this season remains to be seen, but his performance may lead to another deal. “This is for eight games, hopefully, more,” Irsay reportedly said.
Saturday’s challenge begins on Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, another struggling team. The Colts are currently 3-5-1 this season.