Super Bowl XLVI is serving as the backdrop for quite a homecoming week for three members of the New York Giants.
Punter Steve Weatherford was born in Crown Point and grew up in Terre Haute. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka and offensive tackle James Brewer both went to high school in Indianapolis. Brewer, who attended Arlington High School, went on to play at Indiana.
Coming back to Indianapolis, with the Super Bowl setting, has become a little bit of good news/bad news for all three.
“I’m going to try to [block out the distractions],” Kiwanuka said during Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day event at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We are here [at the Super Bowl] and focused on getting [a] win. That’s the only thing on my mind.”
Flying into Indianapolis International Airport Monday afternoon brought back a lot of memories for the former Indianapolis Cathedral standout.
“Just land [in Indianapolis]. It’s a familiar flight. I have done the flight from Newark to Indianapolis so many times that it was just like I was going home. But being here [for the Super Bowl] is fun. The city definitely did it big. I’m proud.”
Kiwanuka won a state championship at Lucas Oil Stadium while playing for Cathedral. He’d like to walk off the field Sunday night with another title under his belt.
“If we had maybe been a little bit better team [at Boston College], I could have [won a championship], done all three [levels],” he recalled. “I wasn’t the best player on my high school team and maybe I was one of the better players on my college team. Being able to be pushing and keep working and succeeding has gotten me this far.”
The last time that the Giants played New England in Super Bowl XLII, Kiwanuka was sidelined with a neck injury and couldn’t play. He's getting a second chance. And in his hometown to boot.
“It’s very special. All of the stars lined up for this one. Missing the last [Super Bowl] was definitely tough. Having the opportunity to be out here and be with the guys on the field is nothing short of amazing,” he admitted.
“I have been very fortunate. Prayer works. And I believe that I have been blessed. I had a number of things that had to go right that did. This team is in the same spot [Super Bowl], so I am just thankful that I have this opportunity. And I will just keep pushing it.”
• Seeing mom – Kiwanuka spent Monday night away form the Giants’ team hotel and with his family in Indianapolis. That’s a perk that most Super Bowl players don’t get to take advantage of.
“Being at home with my mom and everybody, it was just fun. This is something that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life. Got some home cooking, got to see my nieces and nephews. It was great,” he said.
“[Playing in the Super Bowl] is unbelievable and has been a great journey. To be at this point, I feel very fortunate.”
• The IU connection – While James Brewer grew up following Indianapolis on the city’s east side, basketball was and remains his first love.
In fact, Brewer is an ardent Indiana Pacers fan. That’s where he thought his future was heading before he accepted a scholarship to play football at Indiana.
When asked Tuesday if he had to recommend a place that his Giants’ teammates visit before leaving town, Brewer didn’t hesitate.
“I would say go see a Pacers game. I like who we have now [on the Indiana roster],” he voiced, admitting that he didn't start to really get serious about football as a possible profession until his sophomore season with the Hoosiers.
“We lost to Iowa at Iowa. We had been winning the whole game and they had this crazy comeback. It’s one of those things where it hurt [to lose] so bad. That’s when I realized that it was more than just a game. It really mattered a lot.”
• Questions of the day – Kiwanuka was asked if he expected Indianapolis fans to embrace the NFC Giants over home team AFC champion New England.
“I think so. They have to be, especially with the matchup that we have and having me [and Brewer] on the team,” he said. “I feel like we will be welcomed with open arms.”
Conversely, Brewer was put on the heat seat as to his thoughts on whether Peyton Manning will remain with the Colts.
“If I had to give you my guess as a fan, just from watching, if the Colts do something with [the first pick in the NFL draft] and they take a quarterback, being [Stanford’s] Andrew Luck, I think then there’s a reason for Peyton possibly leaving,” he said.
“But I don’t see Peyton going anywhere. He’s been here for forever. He’s been a great quarterback. I don’t see him going elsewhere.”
Super Bowl XLVI is serving as the backdrop for quite a homecoming week for three members of the New York Giants.
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Seeking elite status
Many stages are set in the long-running drama that is the Indianapolis 500.
The 97th running on the famed oval today has the potential to provide a new four-time champion in Helio Castroneves or Dario Franchitti.
A win for either driver would tie them for the all-time lead in the Indy 500 as A.J. Foyt (1961, ’64, ’67, ’77), Al Unser 1970-71, ’78, ’87) and Rick Mears (1979, ’84, 88, ’91) are atop that mountain with four wins a piece.
While Castroveneves starts in the middle of row three, he and his team won the pit stop competition on Carb Day. The last time Castroneves won the pit stop competition, he won his third Indy 500.
“The field is so close and we have at least 20 cars that are capable to win this race,” Castroneves said. “My previous win, it was actually won on that as well. We were able to execute in the right time and they were able to put me in a very good opportunity to execute.”
Luck having fun with his first OTAs
A year ago, quarterback Andrew Luck was unable to attend the Indianapolis Colts’ organized team activity practices due to school commitments at Stanford.
Luck, though, went on to have a stellar year for the Colts despite the lack of summer work with the team. Still, in a sense, he is a rookie during this year’s OTA workouts.
“These are my first OTAs. I missed these last year, so I think it’s great. It’s great to get on the field with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff. Obviously, some of us ran some of this stuff [offense] at Stanford [under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton]. But to get out there with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff is good,” Luck said Wednesday as the team wrapped up its first week of on-field voluntary practice sessions.
Colts hoping for more high marks on draft picks
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts received high marks for the impact players the team added through the NFL draft.
Of the 10 players selected, five ended up either starting or seeing extensive playing time (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard) during the Colts’ 11-5 season.
While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
Colts in wait-and-see mode for tonight’s NFL draft
As the 2013 NFL draft gets underway tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Indianapolis Colts are continuing their wait-and-see stance in regard to the first-round pick.
The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
Colts sign Matt Hasselbeck to back up Luck
The Indianapolis Colts’ roster moves just keep coming.
While the Colts haven’t yet added that big-name wide receiver that team owner Jim Irsay hinted at in tweets over the weekend, Indianapolis has addressed one area on offense.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”
Colts introduce free-agent signees
What the Indianapolis Colts accomplished last season — posting an 11-5 record and earning an AFC wild-card berth with a young team plus having that kind of success without its head coach on the sidelines for 12 games — didn’t go unnoticed by players around the NFL.
That was especially true for the five veteran free agents who were added to the Colts’ roster Tuesday. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), cornerback Greg Toler (Arizona), outside linebacker Erik Walden (Green Bay), offensive guard Donald Thomas (New England) and linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta) admitted as much Wednesday.
“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
Indianapolis franchises punter McAfee
A week ago, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said it was a priority that the team retain the services of punter Pat McAfee.
McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
Colts' Pagano back to full work schedule at combine
Back and ready to go.
That’s the attitude Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is taking during the National Football Scouting Combine, which completed its second day of operations Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. During a wide-ranging press conference at the combine, Pagano confirmed that he is back to a full work regimen after missing 12 games last fall as he battled a rare form of leukemia.
After undergoing cancer treatments that featured heavy doses of chemotherapy, the second-year head coach was able to return to the sidelines for Indianapolis’ final regular-season home game against Houston and for the team’s AFC wild-card matchup with eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
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Close to 300 fans, many of whom watched Leonard take the Maroons to the 2010 IHSA Class 2A state championship, rode on charter buses to watch him battle the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis last week.
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Times have changed
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Many Colts point to that loss in the third week of the season. Indianapolis led 14-3 at the half and were ahead 14-13 after three quarters of play.
In fact, the Colts led 17-16 with 0:45 remaining in the game. That’s when Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert connected with speedy wide receiver Cecil Shorts III on an 80-yard pass play that resulted in the final margin of victory.
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