Colts' Sheldon Day Grew Up With An Appreciation For Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS — Sheldon Day grew up cheering for the Indianapolis Colts, which meant hurrying home each Sunday from church to watch his hometown NFL team.
As a Warren Central High School star, who would play his college ball three hours north at Notre Dame, Day has always had an appreciation for what sports mean in Indianapolis and the Hoosier State.
So the defensive tackle was ecstatic about the opportunity, after playing four seasons with San Francisco and Jacksonville, to sign recently with the Colts as a free agent and come home.
“I loved Peyton (Manning). I loved Edgerrin (James). I loved Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis. We’re going to go with GB – Gary Brackett. He was underrated, undersized linebacker and he really held that unit together. He was a special player, for sure,” Day said during a video conference call last week. “What I love about Indy the most is the feeling you get within the city. Sports are huge in Indianapolis and most people don’t know that. So, it’s just a Midwest town with a lot of love for the people in it, the sports in it and just as a whole it’s a great place.
“Sundays were Colts days. Every Sunday after church, we would try to rush home and beat the church traffic to make sure that we got home to watch the Colts games. It was really big in my household, and just getting the opportunity to go put on the Horseshoe and play for the hometown team, it’s something special. So I am looking forward to it. It’s going to be an exciting time and hopefully we can bring a Super Bowl to Indy.”
Each offseason, Day has always returned home to connect with the community.
“I host a youth camp every year and I host it at Warren Central,” he said. “I take fourth and sixth graders up to the University of Notre Dame, I teach them about life skills and then I also throw in a little sports mix as well. … The Indy community has been so supportive of me throughout my entire career so I always have to give back when I can.”
Day signed a one-year, $1.75-million deal, according to spotrac.com. A reserve for much of his career with just two starts in 56 games, he’ll add to the rotational depth on the defensive interior. He’s reunited with defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, whom the Colts acquired in a trade for their 2020 first-round draft choice. They played together for the 49ers the past three years.
Buckner, an All-Pro pass rusher, said during a recent video conference call that he will bring the intensity starting in practice, perhaps to the chagrin of his offensive linemen teammates. Day chuckled when asked about that.
“You’ve got to,” he said of practicing like you play. “You’ve got to work your craft every day. I mean, if the person across from you can’t appreciate that then they don’t want you to be the best and they obviously don’t want to be the best because you’re giving them your best, so ultimately that’s making them better. So, practice is where we get better, practice is where we hone in on our details and make sure that we play as fast as we can on Sundays. So, ultimately we’ve got to play our best in practice, so that we can succeed on Sundays.
“Just the intensity and effort we play with, trying to play hard every single down, make sure we impose our will and make sure that we are infectious when it comes to the energy bucket – we’re always trying to fill it up, no matter what the circumstances are. It can be fourth-and-one with the game on the line, we’re still going to play fast, hard and physical. We can be up by 20 (points), we’re still going to be flying around and having fun. So, it’s about spreading the infectious desire to have fun throughout the entire unit.”
Day said he and Buckner have known each other since they were in high school.
“Man, we’ve been building a chemistry for a while now,” Day said. “I actually met DeForest when we were 16 (years old). … We have known each other for a while and we have little clues that we give each other while we are playing to make sure that we can play comfortable with each other. We are always feeding off of each other and trying to make sure that we play to our best levels. So during the week we always drop little hints on film or are always asking each other questions, bouncing ideas off of each other to help us succeed.
“He definitely leads by example. He is always trying to do the right thing and make sure that people can follow his lead. Make sure that we are all on the same page, especially when we were in San Fran. It was all about, ‘How dominant of a force can we be?’ And he was our leader. He played hard, ran to the ball and he did everything that everybody wanted to live up and be. So he was our expectation, and he set it. So hopefully we can kind of transpire that and make sure that we have that same build in this d-line room.”
Day isn't the only Indianapolis native on the Colts roster. Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle, who arrived in 2013 and signed a three-year, $21-million extension near the end of last season, played his school football at Cathedral. The fan favorite from a large family has one of the loudest cheering sections.
Day laughed when asked about the kind of reaction he received from family and friends after his signing was announced.
“Everybody was ecstatic,” he said. “It was crazy, everybody was like, ‘I can’t believe you’re finally coming home.’ It was like everybody would always drop hints. It’s like, ‘You know one day you’re going to play for the Colts. You know one day you’re going to have to come here and play.’
“Just to have that support is crazy. Everybody is asking me what my jersey number is going to be, so they can buy jerseys right now. I’m just like, ‘You guys are too much. I haven’t even stepped foot in the facility and you guys are already there.’ It’s going to be a great time.”