BY TOM JAMES CNHI news service
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — Shortly before 10 a.m. Friday, Indianapolis Colts punter and kickoff specialist Pat McAfee 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, ‘Hey, we’ve come to a deal,’ I had like three conversations with my agent [Friday] morning before the announcement. He said, ‘How about this?’ I said, ‘That sound 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.”
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.”