There will come a time when the young man generously advertised in game programs as 6-foot, 236 pounds, runs out of bodily real estate. What will Pat Angerer do then?
The Indianapolis Colts linebacker doesn’t want to think about it. Not now. He’s only 25, for heaven’s sake. Angerer sees more tattoos in his future; it’s simply a matter of finding the time.
“I don’t even know how many I have anymore. Probably eight or nine,” said Angerer, who by wearing a Butkus-ian jersey number (51) and having the first two syllables of his surname stand for rage is as linebacker as a linebacker can be. “I’ve still got work to do. I need to find a place around here to get them done.”
Like Angerer, all ink to this point traces its origin to Iowa. Somewhere in the Indianapolis metropolitan area there must be a tattoo shop — or six — aching to make him their unofficial spokesman.
Not that Angerer needs the diversion. Or the work.
As a married father with a young son — Cael, who turns 14 months old on Christmas Day — Angerer keeps plenty busy when not attempting to impede the progress of an opposing ball carrier for three hours almost every Sunday.
It’s as if he’s been here all along, a no-frills Midwestern guy playing the sport he loves at the highest level possible in a glitzless Midwestern city.
However, this is only Angerer’s third NFL season, which is exactly three more than some figured he would experience.
It’s all about instincts
Born and raised in Bettendorf, Iowa, smallest of the Quad Cities with a population of about 33,000 located 95 miles northwest of Peoria, Ill., Angerer never featured the look of one’s prototypical linebacker.
Skeptics were everywhere. Angerer was quick, but too short. A tremendous instinctive talent, but too short. Quick to the football, but too short. Fabulous work ethic, but too short. As coachable as a kid could possibly be, but ... well, you get the idea.
First it was whether he could make the jump from freshman to varsity ball at Bettendorf High School. Then it was whether or not he could evolve as something more than a uniform filler at the University of Iowa. As for a roster spot in the NFL, get outta here!
It’s as if Angerer feasts on the doubt of others. Tell him he can’t, and he’ll burrow through a brick wall to prove you wrong.
“That’s the thing when Pat was coming through. Everyone told him he was too little; and because of that, he carries a chip on his shoulder. He always wanted to prove them wrong,” said fifth-year Bettendorf High School football coach Aaron Wiley, 41, the program’s linebackers coach when Angerer played varsity during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
“When he played for us, I think Pat weighed about 180 or 185 pounds as a junior,” Wiley said. “His senior season he probably played at about 205. He was a special one, though. He can play. It’s instincts.
“Pat just knows where the football is within the first half-second of the play.”
Angerer captained Bettendorf as a senior, helping the Bulldogs capture the Class 4-A state championship. By the time his prep eligibility expired, Angerer owned program records for tackles in a game (25), season (197) and career (344). He also had been credited with 17 sacks.
Iowa State University was first to offer Angerer a college scholarship. Indiana and Northern Illinois followed suit. But the opportunity to be an Iowa Hawkeye was simply too good to pass up, particularly with legendary Kinnick Stadium being only an hour’s drive west of Bettendorf.
The bad and the good
Iowa coaches elected to redshirt Angerer his freshman season. He saw limited playing time in 2005 before battling through a series of injuries as well as a case of mononucleosis.
Angerer’s junior and senior campaigns proved much more successful. He posted five interceptions to go along with a team-best 107 tackles in 2008. By the end of the 2009 regular season he had been named one of 16 semifinalists for the coveted Bednarik Award after averaging 11.2 tackles per game.
This Colts season again has served to remind Angerer how thin the line separating good health and injury really is.
After missing the team’s first five games because of a foot fracture, Angerer returned with a three-tackle performance in the Colts’ 17-13 victory Oct. 21 over Cleveland. His 19 tackles to date pale in comparison to the 148 Angerer recorded in 2011, a total ranking him fourth in the NFL in that category.
He’s back to playing, though, and getting stronger every week, so all is good.
“I’m not good at dealing with injury,” Angerer said. “I try watching games on TV when I’m hurt, but it’s frustrating because the announcers don’t have a clue most of the time.”
Angerer isn’t above turning off the television and playing on the floor with Cael. It’s here life’s bigger picture comes into focus.
Vauling Midwestern values
Between the tattoos, the buzz-cut hair and a goatee that varies in levels of unruliness, Angerer looks menacing.
However, he simply isn’t wired in a way that allows him to give anyone the star treatment. In the Colts’ locker room, Angerer is friendly to teammates, other workers within the organization and media types.
Put another way, Angerer could be the guy checking out in front of you at your local hardware store and you likely wouldn’t even know it.
“Pat is real low-profile when he comes back (to Bettendorf). He’ll work out in our weight room, and you wouldn’t even know he’s there cause he’s in a corner with a hat on or his hood pulled up,” said Wiley, who has known Angerer most of the latter’s life. “He’s really good with little kids, too. They just swarm to him because he’s still kind of a rock star around here.”
Such levels of adulation don’t yet exist in central Indiana. Maybe they never will. Angerer is fine either way, as long as he gets to play out the remainder of his career in Indianapolis. He loves it here, his family loves it here and Bettendorf is five hours away with limited traffic.
“I really couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else. It’s great here. Like a family. And we have one of the best owners in the league,” Angerer said. Laughing, he added, “And it’s like six or seven degrees warmer here in the winter than it is in Iowa. It’s like a vacation here.”
Compliments aren’t built any larger than that.