He grew up on the Northside of the Hoosier State capital city, which means Joe Reitz understands the annual importance of the Indianapolis 500.
What the Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle didn’t envision was the opportunity to ride in the Indy 500 Festival Parade.
Joe and Jill Reitz and their three children, Juliana, A.J. and Virginia, got a real kick out of the May 28th experience in downtown Indianapolis, where thousands lined the streets a day before the 100th Indy 500.
The Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate, who entered the NFL six years ago as an undrafted free agent, is as self-effacing as they come. He doesn’t consider himself a star.
“They must have been hard up for celebrities,” said a smiling Reitz, 30.
The wisecrack aside, he conceded the parade ride was thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated.
“It was awesome,” he said earlier this week during offseason training activities. “I told my wife it’s such a special memory for our family. We were sitting in the back of the car. My kids were practicing their wave all week.”
Jill’s advice to their oldest daughter was one wave to the right, one to the left, another up high and another down low.
“They had a great time,” Reitz said. “We were riding right behind Blue (the Colts mascot), and they obviously love Blue. He’d get out of the car and run around and come mess with us and go see other people.
“It’s something that when you go as a kid, and you know how much the 500 means to Indianapolis and the people around the state, then to be a part of it, it’s a special memory. It’s something we’ll remember forever.”
After serving as a versatile backup capable of playing guard or tackle for much of his career, Reitz has worked his way into the starting lineup at right tackle. He started a career-high 14 of 16 games last year. He’s started 38 of 60 games in the NFL.
Colts teammates voted Reitz the team’s 2015 Ed Block Courage Award recipient. He was humbled by that honor, and now another.
“For the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, that’s as cool as it gets,” he said. “It was fun to go there. You see people you knew from town, old teachers and friends in the stands, you give them a shout-out.
“I got a couple HSE shoutouts and a few for Western Michigan (his college alma mater), so it was good. We TiVo’d the parade on TV so we’ll save that one and make a copy of it and that’s something we’ll file away and pull back up in 10 or 20 years and realize how cool that was.”
If watching the parade again, he’s the guy in a No. 76 jersey, surrounded by family, in the car immediately after Blue.
“Obviously Blue was leading the charge,” Reitz said, “slightly more famous, but we were just glad and honored to be a part of it.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.