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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Indianapolis Colts defensive end Jabaal Sheard high-fives Tyler Hatton, 8, during the player autograph session before the TinCaps' game against Lansing at Parkview Field on Thursday night.

Friday, May 17, 2019 1:00 am

Ride into Parkview memorable for Colts

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

With success come the perks. And perhaps the scares.

Marlon Mack and Jabaal Sheard of the Indianapolis Colts experienced some of both Thursday on “Colts at Bat” night at Parkview Field, where the TinCaps and their fans welcomed the two NFL players, mascot Blue and cheerleaders.

With the Colts coming off a 10-6 season that saw them lose to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs, the fans at Parkview Field were excited to see how two stars from an up-and-coming football team would perform throwing out ceremonial first pitches as part of the Colts' fan tour.

Truth be told, Blue showed up Mack and Sheard in that realm, but the scares had come earlier in the day.

“It's definitely a cool experience being here,” said Mack, a running back. “We rode in a helicopter here. It was my first experience doing that. It was probably something I won't do again, but it was a cool experience and definitely a cool experience to see the people of Fort Wayne.”

The Colts were a surprise team in the NFL last season. Sheard and Mack know that won't be the case this season, as they're considered one of the AFC's favorites, but they're not worrying about outside perceptions.

“We just focus on us,” said Sheard, a defensive end. “Right now it's the offseason and we're just focusing on doing better. It's the offseason and we do what we can. Once we get to the season, we'll take it one game at a time and build off of last season.”

The Colts have made a lot of offseason personnel changes and perhaps the most notable has been the signing of pass rusher Justin Houston, who had nine sacks last season with the Chiefs.

“I'm looking forward to feeding off of him,” said Sheard, who had 51/2 sacks last season. “He brings a lot of knowledge and experience. He's a heck of a player, and we're going to go out there and dominate and have fun.”

Mack, who rushed for 908 yards and nine touchdowns last season, is equally enthusiastic about the possibilities with the offense under a now-healthy Andrew Luck at quarterback and coach Frank Reich, entering his second season with the Colts.

“We know what to expect from the offense now, having a year under our belt (under Reich),” Mack said. “Going out there and competing, the guys know what we're doing and we're moving faster on offense; no one has to second-guess themselves now.”

Asked about Reich and how he's made the players feel as if the sky is the limit heading into this season, Sheard said: “He's a player's coach. He listens to the players because he was once a player and he'd helped us. He's teaching us as we go. Our biggest focus that we've learned from him is getting 1% percent better (each day) because if we get 1% better we'll be that much better as a team.

“How he's found ways to motivate guys day in and day out has been great.”

jcohn@jg.net