Pat McAfee is retiring to spend more time with his family. His family just happens to be comedians, satirists, fans of a good time and the entire state of Indiana.
McAfee, now the “former” Indianapolis Colts punter, announced late Wednesday night he is leaving the game at 29 to pursue his passion as an entertainer. He retires with two years left on a five-year, $14.5 million contract, so that says he’s serious about the fun he believes he has ahead.
McAfee will join Barstool Sports, a sports website gaining popularity nationwide and he’ll be operating out of an office in downtown Indianapolis.
He’s staying in Indiana by choice, and that’s about the most feel-good news this state has had in a long time. Colts fans might be bummed. After all, he’s a darn good punter. But he’s staying here among us, just in a new way.
Everyone who has followed McAfee’s career since he joined the Colts in 2009 knows he’s an entertainer at heart. He has moonlighted as a stand-up comedian and has shared various humorous stories on social media and with the real-live media. His Twitter handle is “PatMcAfeeShow,” after all. He called himself (or his leg, specifically) “the Boomstick.”
Good for McAfee. Life’s short. Pursuing your passion should be encouraged.
McAfee’s “Dear Indiana” letter on Twitter today made me like him even more.
He wrote about his arrest for public intoxication after swimming in the Broad Ripple Canal in 2010. He copped to the embarrassment, but also marveled at the support he received from Colts fans who cut him slack and gave him another chance.
“When I was in my darkest moment, really questioning everything, Indiana lifted me up, and made me know that I was completely welcome in this great Hoosier state,” McAfee wrote. “Since that moment I’ve tried to repay all of you, both on the field and off the field.”
He mentioned Hoosier hospitality from “North Vernon and Evansville, to Fort Wayne and South Bend, and all the towns in between” and said his love for the state convinced his parents to move from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis.
When Barstool Sports made him an offer, they wanted to have him relocate to their headquarters in New York City. McAfee said he wasn't leaving Indy. They offered to let him open a branch in Indianapolis.
I can't say how much I appreciate McAfee's comments about Indiana. I’ve lived in Indiana since I was 4 years old. The state gets an unwarranted bad rap nationwide as part of flyover country. McAfee writes that the state is filled with “literally the best humans on earth.”
McAfee walks away from the NFL at the top of his game. His career net average is 40.1 yards and he’s been terrific at onside kicks. He’s a great punter and, as Colts fans have seen many times, fearless in making tackles when necessary. He has 21 career tackles. McAfee came into the league and embraced all aspects of his job, including being the holder for kicker Adam Vinatieri.
Three surgeries in four years and “more surgeries certain for the future” contributed to McAfee’s decision. He knew he would have to transition to life after football sooner or later. It came sooner. Colts owner Jim Irsay was surprised, and tried to talk him into sticking around, but ultimately gave his blessing. McAfee called Irsay “one of the best humans on earth.”
“I understand some people might be upset about the fact I won’t be kicking balls on 4th downs for the Colts anymore, and I can understand that,” McAfee wrote, “but please know that I am very excited about the future, and the spotlight I will be able to place on Indianapolis.”
McAfee said he wants to “shift my obsessive-like focus, to making the world a happier and, hopefully, a better place. I love Indiana and I’m excited to show the world why.”
Rarely do casual NFL fans pay attention to the punter, except when things go wrong. McAfee was an exception. Fans wore his No. 1 jersey. He was one of the most popular Colts. He might have been the most popular Colt.
It’s bad news for the Colts that he’s leaving the game. It’s good news for Indiana that we get to keep him.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.