Shortly before 10 a.m. Friday, Pat McAfee — the Indianapolis Colts’ punter and kickoff specialist — tweeted that he had a special announcement to make at the top of the hour.
McAfee has been co-hosting NFL AM on the NFL Network for the past week. His tweet about a “special announcement” could only mean one thing. He had news on his contract situation with the team.
By the time the show’s regular hosts, Molly Qerim and Steve Wyche, turned things over to McAfee, the big smile on his face pretty much told the whole story.
“My phone vibrated about five minutes ago and let me know that I have agreed to terms with the Indianapolis Colts for five years,” he related. “I’m really pumped about it. This is really cool. I really love the city of Indianapolis.
“I am super excited. This is a huge day. I texted my mom and my dad and my girlfriend. Super excited to be back in Indianapolis, back in that locker room and hopefully win a lot of games.”
While terms haven’t been officially released, FoxSports’ Alex Marvez reported that McAfee agreed to a five-year deal that is worth $14 million with $5 million in guarantees. He was due to become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.
A seventh-round pick from West Virginia in 2009, the kicking specialist had the unenviable task of replacing one of the franchise’s most popular players in punter Hunter Smith. But McAfee was up to the job, which became a little tougher after a much-publicized off-field incident in 2010.
Despite that distraction, he has become one of the National Football League’s most dependable punters. McAfee has a five-year overall career average of 45.6 yards and a net average of 38.4 yards on 366 total punts. He holds team records for total kickoffs (387), touchbacks (164) as well as gross and net punt average.
McAfee was the Colts’ franchise player in 2013, playing under a one-year $2.97 million contract.
“It was just so much off your shoulders. I didn’t know where I was going to be living in a month. I had no idea what I was going to be doing. I had no idea if I was going to representing Indianapolis anymore. I had no idea if I was going to be on the Colts. It was all kind of up in the air. My agent was telling me the conversations were going good with the Colts. But until something gets finalized, you never really know what’s going to happen in this business,” he related in a teleconference Friday afternoon.
“Whenever I got the text messages today, ‘Hey, we’ve come to a deal,’ I had like three conversations with my agent this morning before the announcement. He said, ‘How about this?’ I said, ‘That sounds good.’ He said, ‘How about this?’ I said, ‘That sounds good.’ Then there was like a little bit going on. When I finally got the confirmation that it went through, I was so happy and relieved. I actually cried a little bit before the show started back up. I had to wipe those off because I had so much makeup on that I didn’t want it to run with the tears. I had to wipe that off and I got back out there. I’m so happy. It’s so much of a weight off my shoulders to get it over with. I just can’t wait to get back in the facility and get to work.”
McAfee has become as popular as his predecessor, especially among his many social media followers. Twitter lit up when news of his contract situation became public Friday morning.
“The people of Indianapolis and the Colts legion have embraced me ever since 2010, really, and that’s why I am so indebted to this city and these people. They took me in at a time when I was down. After I got in trouble, I was in, probably, the lowest point of my life and the people of this city all said, ‘We want nobody else but you.’ The people of Indianapolis have embraced me and that’s why I love the city so much,” he said.
“I’m so happy to be a Hoosier. That’s my full-time home. I don’t live anywhere else in the offseason. I live in Indianapolis and I’m excited that I get the chance to live there during regular season, again. It’s going to be a lot of fun this year, and for the next five years and this just worked out exactly how I wanted it to.”
McAfee admitted that he couldn’t see himself playing anywhere else but with the Colts. He even briefly contemplated retiring if he couldn’t stay in Indianapolis.
“I didn’t want to hit free agency. Not one bit. Now granted, would I have retired? First of all, would my parents or the people around me let me retire? I don’t know. But I consider myself a really loyal person,” he said.
“Every night when I go to lay my head down, I couldn’t even imagine being in another city or playing for another team or representing another fan base. I didn’t want to even think about it. I don’t know what I would’ve done had free agency hit but I was trying to make sure I was prepared for anything.”
And, now, it appears he will be a Colt for life. Or at least for the next five seasons.
“I’m definitely excited for this payday I’m getting. Obviously, it’s awesome. I’m overly compensated. My family is going to be happy too. This is kind of what my goal my entire life has been, to be successful financially and comfortably and help my parents be comfortable financially. This is definitely going to help,” he said, adding that the possibility of maybe taking over the place kicking duties at some point is still a viable option.
“It was definitely brought up and that was kind of the thing I think that was most talked about. Who knows what’s going to happen with [veteran place kicker Adam] Vinatieri? If he gets re-signed, if he wants to get re-signed, however long he wants to play. I just wanted to know whenever that guy is done, whenever that Hall-of-Fame career is over, that I just want a fair shake in kicking as well.
“That came up in the [contract] conversation. Who knows what’s going to happen with everything else obviously with him or who else they bring in. That definitely came up during negotiations and I’m excited to see how that turns out as well.”
Now the Colts can turn their attention to re-signing Vinatieri, cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Antoine Bethea, among others. The Indianapolis Star reported Friday that Davis and Indianapolis officials are far apart in their negotiations.