Joe Reitz has always been a humble guy, a hometown fan favorite who re-signed with the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason because playing where he grew up makes his life in the NFL all the more special.
The offensive tackle/guard goes about his business without much attention, so he was surprised to say the least to learn last week his teammates voted him as the 2015 Ed Block Courage Award recipient.
The annual honor recognizes a player from each team for courageous play. Reitz, a fifth-year pro who has played in 53 career games including 31 starts, didn’t begin the season as a starter. But after two opening losses, the Colts’ Week 3 reshuffling of the offensive line put Reitz at right tackle, where he’s started the last nine games.
“It was very humbling,” Reitz said Monday. “I was surprised to win it, to know that something your peers voted for you is very special, and obviously with this team and so many good guys in the locker room.
“It was very cool for me and my family. My wife does a lot of stuff, with the (three) kids, so we can go out and serve in the community together. It’s very cool for us, especially being from Indiana, and being from this part of the area, that made it very special.”
Reitz, 30, is from the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers and was a high school basketball star at Hamilton Southeastern. He didn’t play college football, instead sticking with basketball at Western Michigan. The undrafted free agent signed with the Baltimore Ravens who eventually converted him into an offensive lineman.
“Joe is one of the most respected men in our locker room,” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “He is a leader on and off the field due to his high character and selflessness. He is a humanitarian who loves to use his platform as an NFL player to help others. We are proud of Joe and how he serves his family, coaches, teammates, community and the horseshoe.”
Reitz’s charitable endeavors include hosting youth football camps at Hamilton Southeastern, St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Carmel, Ind. He’s worked with the Knights of Columbus to host a Special Olympics mini-combine at the Colts complex in February. He visits Riley Hospital for Children to meet patients during the holiday season.
For the last three years, Reitz and his wife have hosted a Tackling Homelessness Event for Horizon House. He is active in Christian outreach efforts and Indianapolis CYO programs. Reitz has served as a guest speaker for All Pro Dad’s Chapter Breakfast at Hazel Dell Elementary School and at Coburn Place’s Blue Breakfast.
Dating back to 2000, the Colts’ past winners have been tight end Dwayne Allen (2014), defensive end Cory Redding (2013), safety Antoine Bethea (2012), defensive end Robert Mathis (2011), defensive end Dwight Freeney (2010), cornerback Marlin Jackson (2009), center Jeff Saturday (2008), offensive guard Ryan Lilja (2007), wide receiver Reggie Wayne (2006), linebacker Cato June (2005), linebacker Gary Brackett (2004), defensive end Chad Bratzke (2003), linebacker Rob Morris (2002), quarterback Peyton Manning (2001) and defensive tackle Bernard Whittington (2000).
The award is named after the late Ed Block, Baltimore Colts head athletic trainer from 1954 to 1977. He served as trainer emeritus with the Colts until his death in 1983.
Recipients from each NFL team will be honored at the 38th annual dinner on March 12 in Baltimore. Proceeds benefit the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation in Baltimore. The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation’s objective is to establish homes for abused children in each NFL city. Indianapolis established an Ed Block Courage home (Children’s Bureau) in October of 2000. The home is part of a national support network for abused children.
Reitz concedes other winners probably won’t recognize him.
“Probably not, probably not. They’re going to be like, ‘Who’s this guy? How did this guy get in here?’ he said with a smile.
“Exactly,” he said.
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