They grew up in big families with childhood dreams of playing for their hometown NFL team.
Joe Reitz and Jack Doyle didn’t know each other then, but each attended games at the old RCA Dome. As Doyle said, “It was impossible growing up in Indianapolis in the late 1990s and 2000s and not be an Indianapolis Colts fan.”
Doyle lists the great names, Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, Dallas Clark. Then, while standing in the Colts’ locker room at the West 56th Street complex, Doyle mentions wide receiver Reggie Wayne and outside linebacker Robert Mathis. He glances at the lockers of his teammates.
It’s as if he still can’t believe he’s living that childhood dream.
When Doyle signed with the Colts last September after being cut by Tennessee, his father John dialed his dad of the same name and said, “Do you believe in miracles?”
Reitz has been enjoying the same Indy homecoming since 2010, and was grateful to be offered a one-year contract in the offseason.
“This is where I want to be,” said Reitz, who has started 20 of 34 games played the past three seasons. “I love Indy. Indy’s home. Great organization, but more importantly, we’ve got a great team and we know we’ve got a real shot this year. It’s a great group of guys to be a part of, a fun locker room, fun guys to go out and play with on Sunday.”
Dave and Jane Reitz learned the importance of having family close by when they moved to Nebraska for three years. She was one of eight children and he was one of six. They used to make regular trips to Jay County to see relatives. They had to move back to Indianapolis. Family meant that much.
“It’s been fun to have Joe and (wife) Jill back,” Dave said. “We’ve been able to get together a lot now. We really value family and the proximity.”
He mentions a two-night campout during the Fourth Of July weekend.
“We’re hoping to ride this as long as we can,” he said of his son playing for the Colts.
Doyle’s parents are thinking the same thing with final roster cuts due Saturday. Doyle is a reserve tight end behind Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. How nervous are mom and dad?
“Very,” John said.
“From the things we’ve been through, I’m kind of taking it as no need to worry until you have to,” said Doyle’s mother, Nancy. “He’s maybe not the fastest tight end, but he’s got great hands.”
They recall last year, when their son was among the Titans’ final cuts. Disappointment turned to euphoria when the Colts came calling. They learned the NFL is a business, but that sometimes things work out.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” John said. “Well, of course it was. He’s back home.”
Their family gatherings are large, too. Nancy is one of six daughters. John has a brother and three sisters.
“It’s been a ton of fun for them,” Jack said. “The family has a blast with it. I’ve got to focus on certain things, my play each and every day, but it’s obviously a dream come true. It’s what you dream of as a 10-year-old boy when you’re out there throwing the football in the front yard.
“My mom has five sisters, a huge family, they’re crazy about this and soak it all in. They love telling people. They have a lot of fun. They don’t overdue it. They make sure I have my space, but I’m glad they have a lot of fun with it.”
Doyle, 24, played his high school ball at Cathedral, then in college at Western Kentucky. He was undrafted, yet earned playing time with the Colts. He appeared in 15 games, four of them starts. Used primarily as a blocker, he still had five catches for 19 yards, and also made three special-teams tackles.
Reitz, 29, was a star athlete at Hamilton Southeastern High School on the North side, so much so that he actually played basketball, not football, at Western Michigan. He returned to football when the Baltimore Ravens signed him as an undrafted free agent. After two years on the Ravens’ practice squad, he came to the Colts.
“Sometimes I’ve almost got to pinch myself, it’s surreal when you get to run out there under the lights at Lucas Oil,” Reitz said. “It’s a special, special feeling, a special place, and I’m glad to be here.
“I try to just keep it day by day, just try to continue to get better every day, make it every day, make it every year. That’s always been my approach and will continue to be until I retire. When I’m old and fat some day, I’m sure I’ll look back and be more reflective and realize how special it was.”
Doyle makes a similar observation.
“Last year was such a learning experience and so much fun,” he said. “Just the roller coaster of last season, with Denver and Peyton coming here to playing a playoff game in New England. Are you kidding me? That’s the stuff I looked at and watched as a kid.
“It’s very cool to end up in Indy. It’s definitely something, when I’m 40, I’ll be able to brag to my little kid about.”
The Colts have never had two guys more proud to wear the uniform.
“It’s special for anybody to get to wear that horseshoe,” Reitz said, “but maybe just a little bit more for me.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.