Members of the media seldom had to ask where to find Pat McAfee’s locker following an Indianapolis Colts victory.
Much like his punts, McAfee’s voice carried.
It used to be fascinating to witness the contrast between McAfee and the man who occupied the locker next to him, future Pro Football Hall of Fame placekicker Adam Vinatieri.
While Vinatieri, a married father of two who is a little more than 14 years older than the punter, quietly made himself look like someone about ready to walk off the cover of GQ, there was McAfee, a one-man mosh pit.
Everyone was McAfee’s friend.
If he knew your name, that’s what he used. As if running for some sort of political post, McAfee shook hands, laughed and smiled.
And it always seemed sincere.
When McAfee announced on Feb. 2 — exactly three months before his 30th birthday — that he would be no longer collect Jim Irsay’s money for punting, kicking and placing footballs, it removed a large percentage of the franchise’s personality and connectivity.
McAfee’s God-given gift of locating common ground between himself and persons of all ages, races and backgrounds made this seventh-round draft selection from 2009 extremely popular throughout Indiana.
Take a self-deprecating sense of humor — see: Broad Ripple canal incident of October 2010 and radio snippets of McAfee referring to himself as the “Colts’ fourth-string quarterback” (which, essentially, he was) — and add a want to give back through assorted charitable efforts, and it makes perfect sense.
Most recently, McAfee and Irsay teamed to donate $97,000 to the reward money in the case of murdered Delphi teenagers Libby German and Abby Williams.
It helped that McAfee was very good at his job.
A two-time Pro Bowl selection, he completed his eight seasons as a Colt averaging 46.4 yards per punt. Only four of McAfee’s career 575 attempts were blocked, and 193 times he forced the opposing team to start inside its own 20-yards line.
His 49.3-yard norm this past season was the best of his career. Mixed into this accomplishment is another all-timer, McAfee’s 74-yard rocket in the Colts’ Week 5 victory against the Chicago Bears after he blasted a 72-yard punt three weeks earlier in Denver.
On kickoffs, McAfee’s powerful right leg resulted in 350 career touchbacks compared to 293 returns. Only twice did an opposing return specialist take it to the house for a touchdown.
McAfee only got better as his NFL career went on.
But if you’ve ever met him — a few times here, but no first-name basis unless I was addressing him — Pat McAfee always came across as a “My Terms” kind of human being.
If the hours of dedication and preparation it took to remain one of professional football’s best punters ceased being enjoyable, McAfee, confident he had what it took to be defined by much more than being an Indianapolis Colt, would have what it took to walk away.
Even when he did, we were stunned.
Whether a professional punter or an elementary school point guard, wearing the No. 1 jersey requires a certain amount of moxie. McAfee did this better than most.
Thanks, Pat. You’ve been a real kick, and so much more.