Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger
FORE! Look out, indeed, Avon, for Indianapolis Colts CFO Kurt Humphrey. A resident of Avon since1988 and member of the Colts organization since the team arrived in 1984, Humphrey spends as much of his free time as he can at Prestwick Country Club. He’s even part owner of the club.
“Golfing is my favorite thing to do when I’m not working,” Humphrey says.
He adds, “I didn’t start playing avidly until 1999. Golf is a great way to get away from everything for four to five hours, be with your buddies, tell stories, and just have fun. I just love the camaraderie at Prestwick Country Club.” He adds, “There are lots of great guys there, and it’s just the right size of club. It’s also where I had my only hole-in-one back in 2007. I live there on the eighth hole and can see my buddies out the sunroom when I’m not playing.”
But before Avon and Prestwick came the Colts. After 32 years, Humphrey has made the football organization as much a part of his identity as golf and Avon. Growing up, however, it’s likely that living in a big city and working for a world class Super Bowl Champion team weren’t even on Humphrey’s radar.
Born in Evansville, Humphrey was 7 when he and his family moved to Muncie, where he spent the rest of his childhood and his college years at Ball State University. But his heart always remained in his mother’s hometown of Jasper, where the family visited regularly. A small, quiet town nestled in southwest Indiana, Jasper is a quaint, very close-knit community, rich with history and a predominantly German population. But it wasn’t Jasper’s charm that wormed its way into Humphrey’s heart and kept him coming back. His beloved Grandma Helen, whom he calls “My favorite person in the whole world,” earned that honor.
Grandma Helen Berger, a warm, cheerful lady with an infectious, jolly laugh, was the bookkeeper at her family’s furniture store, J.C. Lorey Furniture. Known by all in town whom she greeted when they came in to the store, she played an enormous role in shaping Humphrey’s small-town values. However, she never realized she would serve as the inspiration for Humphrey’s career path.
“I always had bookkeeping in the back of my mind as something I might want to do some day,” Humphrey says.
That day happened during high school. Humphrey’s mom, Sarah Humphrey, and a school guidance counselor suggested he attend an Accounting Club dinner at Ball State. He says he’d never taken an accounting class and knew nothing about it.
“Paul Parkinson, the Head of the BSU Accounting Department, spoke that night at the dinner,” Humphrey says. “I babysat for his two boys often, but I had no idea what he did. After hearing his speech that night I decided to try accounting. I didn’t have much interest in anything else, and my grandma Helen liked it. After my sophomore and junior years at Ball State, my godfather, Dick Lorey, who owned Dick Lorey Ford, asked me to intern in his accounting department to make sure accounting was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I loved it and decided to make it my profession.”
From there, Humphrey began his accounting career in 1979, working for Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young), where he stayed three years. One of Humphrey’s clients, Baldwin and Lyons, offered him a job every year after the audit, which he turned down. The third time was a charm, and Humphrey went to work for Baldwin and Lyons.
Word spread about Humphrey, and in 1984 he got the phone call that changed his life. Ironically, the call came from two Ernst & Young partners who asked Humphrey if he was interested in interviewing for the Indianapolis Colts’ controller position. Ernst & Young was the Colts’ auditor in Baltimore. But when the Colts rushed full speed ahead with plans for a move to Indianapolis, the current controller didn’t want to relocate. So Humphrey interviewed with Mike Chernoff, the Colts’ legal counsel, who offered him the job over lunch.
Humphrey says, “I told him I’d think about it. The next day I turned him down because I really liked my job. Mike was shocked. So were the Ernst & Young guys and a buddy I had told.”
In the week that followed, he noticed the Colts billboards along the roads, and he began to reconsider.
Humphrey says, “My buddy told me I’m the biggest idiot he’s ever known to turn down a job that only one of 28 people at that time had in the world in the number one sport in the U.S., especially as much as I love sports. On Friday of that week, I called Ernst & Young, told them I had reconsidered and wondered if the job was still open. I met with Mike again the next day. He said the offer still stands if you want it.”
Even after all these years, Humphrey says the magic of game day feels just as electric as it did at that first game.
He says, “Every game day is a new experience. My favorite thing to do is walk the concourse during pregame and surprise one or two kids and their parents, take them down to watch the players go out on the field and warm up. Seeing the faces of the kids and their parents, and knowing I’ve given them lifetime memories is priceless.”
Humphrey filled his own stadium full of Colts memories, but he has two favorites. The first was Marlin Jackson intercepting Tom Brady in the 2006 AFC Championship game, clinching the AFC title and the Indianapolis Colts’ first trip to the Super Bowl. The other was the Colts Super Bowl XLI championship experience, being down on the field to celebrate and receive a Super Bowl ring from Jim Irsay.
It’s not surprising that Grandma Helen is part of those memories too. Humphrey recalls how Grandma Helen gushed when she got to talk on the phone to former Colt Ken Dilger. She told him how proud she was of the Colts, and he thanked her for being such a loyal fan.
More Colts left a lasting impression on Grandma Helen.
Humphrey says, “In 1987, Colts owner Bob Irsay asked me about my plans for Thanksgiving. I told him I was going to Jasper to get my grandmother as always, bring her here and then to Muncie. Irsay invited us to join his family for Thanksgiving. So we did, and my grandmother told that story to everyone for the rest of her life, until she passed away at 98.”
Humphrey says he’s forever grateful not only to his Grandma Helen, his godfather and the guidance counselor for leading him into the profession that has brought him such success, but to the Irsays, as well.
He says, “They’ve been very generous to me as they have been to the city and state. I’m very fortunate that they’ve wanted to keep me around so long.”
The spirit of generosity instilled by his mom, grandma and the Irsays has inspired Humphrey to give back. In 2010, Humphrey met and befriended a Filipino family, and decided to change their lives.
“When I met them,” Humphrey says, “They had a large mortgage (which I paid off), no beds, showers, toilets, TV, lots of things most of us take for granted. I bought them all those things and more, helped pay for their kids’ school and college expenses to give them a good start in life and ultimately be self-sufficient. Now, one of the daughters is a college math professor and supports her family so I won’t need to. Another child who was an average student improved to third in her class after I offered her money for good grades. It’s priceless to watch them on Skype and in videos opening Christmas and birthday presents since they’ve never experienced that. The reward I get from seeing them happy, making them try harder and changing their lives is far greater to me than anything I could ever receive.”
Changing the lives of those less fortunate is just one way Humphrey has given back. He’s been generous to the Avon community. In the 1990s, when Humphrey coached his daughters in softball, he wanted to give back to the community.
Humphrey says, “I used to cut grass and drag and line diamonds all spring and summer.”
He didn’t stop there. He joined the board of the Avon Junior Athletics Association, eventually becoming the president of the organization. Humphrey also added basketball referee to his already full plate in 1995, getting his referee license and working Avon Junior Athletics Association basketball games. During that time, he says he rarely missed an Avon football or basketball game. Now more than 10 years after his youngest child graduated from high school, he’s still a referee and working about 100 games every winter.
“I’ve known these kids since they were little, watched them grow up, and now I see them and/or their parents at Kroger or in restaurants. Someone always comes up to me asking if I used to coach or ref their child,” he says.
The journey continues for Humphrey, with much perhaps yet undecided. But family comes first on that list. Father to Abby, Rob and Breanne, he says he couldn’t be prouder that each has enjoyed success in his or her respective profession. Humphrey cherishes Christmas with his family. He started some new traditions of his own with his kids and their spouses/partner. A true-blue football guy, he created a gift exchange much like an NFL draft. Everyone selects a stocking stuffer gift and chooses a wine bottle according to their draft order.
“It gets exciting watching them pick.”
Christmas 2017 will get very exciting, indeed, with the arrival of Humphrey’s first grandchild, a girl due in March.
Next on his list is staying involved with the Avon community.
He says, “Avon reminds me of visiting my grandmother in Jasper. It’s a small community where a lot of the people know each other. It’s grown a lot over the past 20 to 25 years, but it still has a small-town feel to me.”
Humphrey recalls when he moved to Avon, Monty’s was the only grocery store and there were only three elementary schools, one middle school and an intermediate school. Now Avon has two middle and two intermediate schools, seven elementary schools and a high school with an enrollment around 2600.
Whatever the future holds for Humphrey, he’ll make it a hole in one.