Running Backs Coach Tom Rathman Reiterates Importance of Indianapolis Colts’ Team Culture

Phillip B. Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Rathman refers to his playing days with the San Francisco 49ers when discussing how an NFL team should be built with a culture of understanding that talented players must be unselfish.

He won two Super Bowl rings as a 49ers fullback on a team loaded with Hall of Famers, including quarterback Joe Montana and wide receiver Jerry Rice. But what he remembers is how everyone realized they had a role to play and teammates pushed each other to become better.

Entering his third season as Indianapolis Colts running backs coach, Rathman sees the same unselfish building blocks in place with this team. It might sound like coach speak to those on the outside, but Rathman is adamant about a locker room uniting as one for the common goal.

In a recent Zoom video conference call, Rathman was asked a lot of questions about how backfield carries will be shared by running backs Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins.

Rathman insisted that would take care of itself, that the bigger picture was key.

“I think this group is going to embrace whoever is out on the field,” he said. “I think they’re going to pull for each other. They know what it’s all about.

“That’s one thing about this football team, when you talk about the culture of this football team in the locker room and the over umbrella of the Indianapolis Colts, it’s tremendous when you talk about the level they’re at, as far as bringing it together, as far as a family.”

Third-year head coach Frank Reich has reiterated the family approach to his team, including most recently when he made passionate comments about how his players were affected by the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests against racism and police brutality in society. General manager Chris Ballard spoke to black coaches and came away ashamed that he was unaware of how serious the problem of racism has become.

Instead of focusing on football in team meetings, Reich allowed players and coaches to share their insights and vent about the nation’s unrest. Reich said that when his players are hurting, he’s hurting.

Rathman played from 1986 to 1993 with the 49ers before one final season with the Oakland Raiders in 1994.

“I was in San Francisco and they had a pretty good organization, and do have a pretty good organization,” he said. “So you know what a good organization is. I’m saying this is a dynamic organization from that standpoint as far as being in that family environment, everybody pulling for each other.

“That’s what’s going to happen here. Everybody is going to be rooting for each other. It’s all about rooting for a guy to get him to play at that consistent, high level of play. Really we call that our standard. We expect that out of our players.”

(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is

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