A Significant Pre-Season Game

Although Saturday night's contest between the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts likely won't reach epic proportions, two gridiron Cinderella quarterbacks will be taking the field. And a nostalgic return applies to both players.

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Although pre-season NFL games don't garner much recognition, mainly due to their irrelevant impact on the rest of the league, Saturday night's engagement between the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions should spawn at least a hint of time-honored football.

Two classic NFL quarterback underdogs, Jim Harbaugh and former Superbowl MVP Mark Rypien, will both share time at the helm on their respective teams.

Harbaugh, who joined the Lions as a backup quarterback prior to training camp, will be returning to Indianapolis for the first time since departing his former club in 1998, and his return should resuscitate the memories of many Colts' fans watching.

In 1995, Harbaugh's Colts redefined the term "Cinderella Team," as the former Wolverine led Indy to the AFC Championship game, before falling to Pittsburgh in dramatic fashion.

"Let's face it, those were the best times of my life. Period." Harbaugh told the Star News. "The most fun I've had and the best things happened to me in my entire life when I was in Indy."

Harbaugh's notoriety in Indianapolis was shortlived, however, as "Captain Comeback" was traded away in 1998 to Baltimore, and hasn't returned to the RCA Dome since. That will end Saturday.

Rypien, meanwhile, spent the last three seasons mourning the loss of his son. Andrew Rypien lost a 13-month bout with brain cancer in August of 1998. He was three years old. Following Andrew's death, Rypien parted ways with the Atlanta Falcons, where he served as a backup quarterback.

During his time off, the Rypien family dedicated time and money to various charities supporting cancer research. Mark also underwent minor shoulder surgery on his throwing arm in 1999.

After much deliberation, including getting the OK from his doctors, Rypien signed on with the Colts prior to training camp this season. But despite the extended leave of absence, his return has been overwhelming.

Initially considered a 3rd string quarterback, Rypien has almost assured himself as Peyton Manning's backup following his standing-ovation performance against Seattle last week.

In the Colts' 28-21 come-from-behind victory over the Seahawks, Rypien -- the Super Bowl MVP in 1991 -- tossed for 120 yards on 12 for 20 passes, including 2 touchdowns. Rypien finished with a 110.4 quarterback rating, and completed his first six passes during a 73-yard scoring drive.

“It felt great," Rypien said afterwards. "I felt like a kid out there again. It was wonderful on that first drive."

Both Rypien and Harbaugh are expected to backup their respective -- and following generation -- starting quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Charlie Batch, who also happen to be of the same quarterback generation.

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