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Former Colt Jim Sorgi Talks Life After Football & Living In Hendricks County

Photographer: Amy Payne

When my children were young and I was trying to teach them proper behavior for play inside the house, my ongoing mantra was, “Don’t hit. Don’t kick. Don’t throw.”

Not so for Jim Sorgi, who played for the Indianapolis Colts from 2004 to 2009 as Peyton Manning’s backup quarterback. He spent much of his childhood hitting, kicking and throwing, and it served him well.

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Sorgi was the only boy living in a house with four sisters. Now the tables have turned as he’s raising three boys—Jimmy (12), Jackson (10) and Jace (4) — with his wife, Lana.

Growing up, Sorgi always had a ball in his hands — usually baseball or basketball, as football wasn’t his favorite initially.

“I was a tall third-grader so they asked me to play defense, but I wasn’t big and there was a lot of hitting and physical play,” says Sorgi, who quit, then picked up the sport again in middle school. Though he was still tall and thin, this time around he played wide receiver and running back, which was much more to his liking. In ninth grade, he transitioned to quarterback. Though he was thriving in football, he still played basketball and baseball all through high school.

“Football is more of a physical game. Baseball is a game of finesse,” Sorgi says. “Basketball is working in synchronicity. But they all teach something about working as a team.”

That’s why Sorgi is a big believer in kids pursuing multiple sports.

“Being able to switch gears and execute different game plans in order to achieve a goal translates to every aspect of life,” he says.

In his youth, Sorgi didn’t know what his path looked like. He simply knew he had an affinity for sports.

“I loved the kind of chess match — the game within the game, so to speak,” says Sorgi, who played for the University of Wisconsin. After graduation, he got drafted by the Colts in the sixth round of the 2004 NFL draft. In 2010, he signed with the New York Giants. After injuring his right shoulder, however, he was placed on season-ending injury reserve and the following year was released from his contract. Though he hoped to get signed elsewhere following surgery, it wasn’t meant to be.

“Every little boy who plays sports dreams of becoming a professional athlete,” Sorgi says. “I got to live that dream in the NFL. We all wish we could play for 20 years, but seven is good.”

As Sorgi settled into the second chapter in his life, he moved back to Hendricks County (the family had previously lived in Avon when he played for the Colts but now resides in Brownsburg, his wife’s hometown).

“This seemed like a good place to live,” Sorgi says. “A lot of my former teammates feel the same way about the Indianapolis area. It’s clean and full of friendly people.”

Plus, now he has more time to coach his sons’ sports teams and take his kids hunting and fishing. Sorgi, who used to vacation at his grandparent’s cabin in northern Michigan, was forced to take a sabbatical from hunting when he was playing pro football because the two seasons overlapped.

He still stays plenty busy with multiple work endeavors. Sorgi started doing pre-season television games in 2012 — the first year Andrew Luck was with the Colts. He’s now in his sixth year acting as color commentator for the radio — a job that entails doing pre-game and post-game segments, along with a Monday evening radio show where he discusses the previous day’s game.

He’s often asked why he doesn’t pursue a job with CBS or the NFL Network. It’s simple, he’s perfectly content with where he is.

“I get to call the game of football on the radio while rooting for the team I formerly played for,” Sorgi says. “It’s a blast.”

In college, Sorgi majored in Business Management, a degree he never thought he’d use once he got drafted. He was wrong. In 2013, he launched Sorgi Sports with business partner Joey Vandever, an Avon resident who played in the MLB for the St. Louis Cardinals. The pair provides physical therapy and skills improvement equipment to the general public at an affordable price.

“Everyone deserves to get back to good health, back to work, back to life as quickly as possible, whether you’re a professional athlete or not,” Sorgi says.

Throughout his career, Sorgi has witnessed guys who have endured concussions and other painful injuries. Some have suffered memory loss and have had to retire early. He’s pleased, however, to see that the league is proactively taking steps to make the game safer by implementing new rules and regulations about hitting. For instance, players can no longer use the crown of their helmet to make a tackle on any part of the body, nor can they drive a player into the ground or hit a defenseless player without reason.

“These new rules are all designed to protect the guys so they don’t get injured or sustain concussions that could affect them down the line,” Sorgi says. “The NFL is also eliminating getting a running start on kickoffs and double-team blocks on kick-off returns.”

When Sorgi thinks back to his younger years, he recalls many sports idols he’s admired such as Ken Griffey Jr., who played 22 years in Major League Baseball.

“He looked like he was always having fun,” Sorgi says.

His football fave is Barry Sanders, a running back who played for the Detroit Lions.

“I loved when he would score a touchdown and there wasn’t a whole lot of flash,” Sorgi says. “He would just hand the ball to the official and sit down. I respected that.”

Sorgi appreciates seeing teammates bond as it inevitably steps up their performance. During Sorgi’s six years with the Colts, he was fortunate to not witness much turnover.

“In the NFL, there’s always the distinct possibility that guys you count on are there one day, gone the next,” Sorgi says. “That makes it hard for a team to mesh. Luckily, we kept most of our guys around.”

Sorgi’s best memories center around the team’s camaraderie.

“It’s the bus rides, the plane rides, the locker room, smoking cigars after a big win, going to the Kentucky Derby after we won the Super Bowl [XLI against the Chicago Bears],” Sorgi says. “Those moments stick with you. They’re the ones that you wish you could go back and relive all over again.”

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