A key part of the NFL’s Rookie Transition Program is for the players to get out and get to know the community they’ll be working in, serving in, and will now call home.
For the Colts rookies, it began on Wednesday when they visited the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a place unmatched in history and tradition and one that truly represents what it means to be a Hoosier.
“This is the first place we’ve been away from the facility, so it’s just an awesome experience to get here and experience what everybody else knows about Indiana,” said guard Deyshawn Bond, who grew up on the East Side of Indianapolis, but had never been to the track.
The players were greeted with applause and a standing ovation from the crowd while walking down Pit Lane.
“Let’s just be honest. That’s the love for the Colts that Indianapolis has. And we’re rookies, so now we’re blessed to be part of it. And it’s a privilege to be a part of it,” said tackle Zach Banner. “We love the fans just as much, but that’s not us. That’s the guys who came before us and put the Colts uniform on.”
At 6’9” and 350 pounds, Banner wasn’t about to put on a fire suit or get in a car.
“Usually people have to fold into cars, especially bigger guys. I’m going to fold the car,” he said. “I’m not going to fold myself, the car is going to buckle. So, we’re not even going to try that. We’ve got guys getting ready for the race, I don’t want to ruin their car.”
One of those guys, Graham Rahal, took some time to talk to the players.
“It’s fun. We always get to see the Colts rookies out here, which is cool,” he said.
Rahal grew up in Ohio. And as a huge Ohio State fan, there was one player he was particularly excited to meet – safety Malik Hooker, who played for the Buckeyes.
“He’s a special player,” said Rahal. “I think everybody only got to see him for a year playing at Ohio State, but I think he’s a guy that’s going to be around here for many, many years to come.”
It was also fun for Hooker to meet a fellow fan, one he’s now a big fan of himself.
“To meet somebody in a different profession, to be one of the top guys in the profession that they’re in, to talk to him, and him be excited to see me is definitely a good feeling for me,” he said. “I’m humbled and I’m glad to be a part of this environment and be able to witness the race.”
The world of racing is new to Hooker. But there’s one thing that jumped out at him just watching the crews work.
“That’s teamwork at its finest,” he said. “Everybody has got to be on the same page. Because if one person is not up to speed, then everything is not going to work out how they planned.”
And that wasn’t the only similarity he found between football and racing.
“You’ve got to have some type of heart to drive 200 miles an hour around a bend. That shows you the type of dedication and determination it takes to get the job done.”
Coming from a school that sets attendance records for football games, Hooker was blown away by the capacity of IMS – with the ability to hold three times as many people as the Horseshoe at Ohio State.
“I heard the estimate of how many people are here. I thought Columbus was a lot of people at the games. I can’t even imagine how many people would be here.”
It’s something he hopes to see for himself in person. And so do many of his teammates.
“Memorial Day weekend, you can expect to see me at the Indy 500,” said Banner.
And he won’t be hard to miss.
To see the video of their visit, click here: http://www.colts.com/videos/videos/Colts_Rookies_at_the_Indianapolis_Motor_Speedway/f48b7913-7673-4ffe-a396-be1ce5ea2873.