The Indianapolis Colts faced off against the division-rival Houston Texans Sunday afternoon in a battle for the top spot in the AFC South.
Prior to the game, Colts second string quarterback, Scott Tolzien, discussed his career so far, his start versus the Steelers on Thanksgiving, the work ethic of coach Chuck Pagano and the Colts’ playoff expectations.
Top Cheddar Sports: Can you describe how the list of quarterbacks you’ve worked with throughout your career like Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck have affected you personally?
Scott Tolzien: I’ve been lucky to have played with that list of quarterbacks. Like you said, I’ve been well schooled. I played with Philip [Rivers]. Then I played with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Then Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew [Luck] now. So for me its been awesome just because I’ve been able to take bits and pieces from each guy. There’s a lot of similarities between them all, but there are lots of different small things within each guy that you learn from too. I’ve been very blessed to have played with, and worked with all of those great quarterbacks.
TCS: You got the start for the Colts on Thanksgiving at Lucas Oil Stadium, can you describe that atmosphere?
ST: It was cool. I grew up watching games on Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family every year. So to be in that national spotlight you obviously can’t think about the effects of the atmosphere as much when you’re spending so much time preparing for it. But now in hindsight you get to look back and realize it was a pretty cool opportunity to play on the national stage.
TCS: With the playoffs looming, what are the attitudes and mindsets of the guys in the locker room?
ST: I think it’s impressed me. This is my first year here, and the way the guys have handled success and also losses. It’s been a roller-coaster season. For most teams in the NFL that’s what the reality of this game is. There are a lot of losses, and ups and downs and crazy finishes. It’s been impressive to me to see how guys have stayed level headed and humble. All of it comes from the top, and it has to. Your head coach comes in every week and has to set the tone with the first team meeting of the week, whether you win or you lose. Coach Pagano has done an awesome job giving us the same message every week. Whether you’re going to win, or going to lose we walk out of those team meetings all on the same page. We’re a bunch of adults and it’s our job now. He does a great job setting the down each week and it runs down through the players.
TCS: Staying on the topic of Chuck Pagano and his work ethic, are the rumors true? Does he sleep in his office?
ST: [Laughs] I don’t know if he does. But he does work his tail off. Like you alluded to, he has a great work ethic. Guys really appreciate that right now because life is not just football. There’s more to it than that. He genuinely cares about each and every one of his players. I say that wholeheartedly. He cares about each guy. That’s why guys respect him. He has great perspective. Maybe it was battling cancer, but his big things are “So what? Now what? And compared to what?” Basically what he’s saying is that life is going to throw crazy things at you, but it’s all about how you respond. And as far as the “compared to what?” goes, if we’re complaining that it’s too hot outside, or that practice is too long or too hard he always reminds us well “Compared to what? ya know I could walk you down the street and show you something 10 times worse than what you have.” You always want to keep that perspective. The guys have really embraced that and its helped the team.
TCS: To turn the interview inward again, and back to your personal career, what aspects of your Pop Warner, high school and collegiate experience do you still carry with you?
ST: I always have to remind myself that it’s still a kids game, and you never want to lose sight of that. It’s a long season and there are long days, but I’m lucky that I still get to be playing football. It is a kids game. I remember my kid games as much as I remember the Thursday night thanksgiving game. You make so many great memories over the years and meet so many great people. Whether it was kids football, high school, college or the pros everywhere you go you meet people and have these awesome experiences with certain guys. I’m very appreciative of what football has done for me. I think it’s the best team sport there is because there’s 11 guys out on the field, and if one guy doesn’t do their job then the whole operation doesn’t work.
TCS: This question may seem like a cliche, but don’t feel that you’re being forced to say yes. Can the Colts make a run to the Super Bowl? How are they going to do it?
ST: Yeah I think so. I think we have the right mindset. And sometimes adversity is a good thing. We have the right talent, and it’s all about getting hot at the right time. We’ve been in pretty much every game. If we can get hot here at the right time and take it into the playoffs we’ll be in good shape.
TCS: Rob Gronkowski had a party cruise last offseason, do you envision a Scott Tolzien party cruise any time in the near future?
ST: No no there won’t be any party cruise. I’m not as extravagant or exciting as Gronk. I speak for the players by saying that [Gronk’s] whole operation makes me appreciate his energy.
The Colts fell to the Texans 22-17 at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday. The loss sent the team’s record to 6-7 overall and 2-3 in divisional games. The Texans now hold possession of first place in the AFC South, and the Tennessee Titans moved up into second.
Fortunately for the Colts, the offense looked sharp on Sunday. If Tolzien’s description of the locker room’s mindset is still accurate, and the team can get a few bounces in their favor down the stretch the playoffs are not out of reach.