Written by Logan Hancock/ @logan_hancock
Member of Ball State Sports Link
June 11, 1997. Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest athlete of all time, fought off intense flu-like symptoms while racking up 38 points and leading his Bulls to victory. This performance became forever known as “The Flu Game,” and added to his legacy and legend.
Indianapolis Colts back-up quarterback Matt Hasselbeck channeled his inner “Michael Jordan,” and played a historic flu game of his own this past Thursday against the Houston Texans. While this game wasn’t near as important as a Game 5 of an NBA Finals, it almost certainly saved his team’s season.
After starting 0-2 and just barely squeaking out a come from behind victory against the Tennessee Titans, the Colts were in dire need of a hero. That hero came from a place that no one expected, and a place that no fan ever hopes to see. With superstar Andrew Luck out with an injury, Matt Hasselbeck found himself the “next man up” to get the start under center. For those of you fans who may have forgotten, “old man” Hasselbeck has had himself quite a successful NFL career.
Hasselbeck was drafted 187th overall in 1998. He came out of the same draft class as future first-ballot hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Hasselbeck, Manning, and Charles Woodson are the only three active players from the 1998 class still in the league.
He ranks 23rd all-time for passing yards (35,443), 19th all-time in completions (3,114), 36th all-time in touchdown passes (206), and 34th all-time for most wins by a quarterback (82).
Hasselbeck also led the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XL in 2006, but came up just short against the Pittsburgh Steelers losing 20-13.
Not too shabby for a 6th-round pick huh?
However, for all of his on field success, the work he does off the field is even more impressive and important in the grand scheme of life. He has done a lot of work with the charity Enditmovement.com, which is a program set up to abolish slavery around the world. For his 40th birthday this year, he organized a campaign to raise $40,000 dollars to donate clean water to poor communities and countries around the globe. It’s hard not to like this guy.
While there is no doubt Hasselbeck is a great guy, the question on every Colts fan’s mind two weeks ago was, “can he still play?” After all, he had not started in a regular season game since 2012 with the Titans.
As Colts fans now know, the “old man” can still sling the pigskin.
He wasn’t spectacular in his performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars (282 yards, 1 TD), but he did what he needed to do to get the Colts a win. And hey, a win is a win, especially against a divisional opponent.
Regardless, no one in “Colts Nation” (including myself) could have ever predicted the inspirational performance that would follow.
On Tuesday October, 6th, it was reported that Hasselbeck had been checked into the emergency room because of an extremely painful “bacterial infection.” According to multiple reports, he was in the “ER” as late as 2 a.m. Normally this kind of thing wouldn’t make headlines in the sports world, except Andrew Luck was again questionable to play against the Texans two days later on Thursday night due to a nagging shoulder injury. This left Josh Johnson, who only has five career starts and about a week of experience as a Colt as the only healthy quarterback on the team.
Uh-Oh. Can somebody say trouble?
Hasselbeck did not practice with the Colts at all the week leading up to the game against Houston. In fact according to wide receiver TY Hilton, “he was very sick, in and out of meetings all week.”
Panic button time?
Thursday October, 8th rolled around, and sure enough 40 year-old Matt Hasselbeck was out on the field at NRG Stadium taking snaps with the first team offense in pre-game warm-ups. He still had a visible bandage on his left arm where doctors had pumped him full of fluids to help fight off his infection. That’s right Colts fans, a man who was in the emergency room less than 48 hours prior to kick-off was set to line up behind the Colts patchy offensive line against reigning defensive player of the year JJ Watt.
“The Matt Hasselbeck Flu Game”
Hasselbeck turned out to be the true blue warrior that the Colts needed to reroute their season in the right direction. I watched in awe on my television screen Thursday night as the 40 year-old quarterback led the team to victory. He didn’t show pain or any signs of discomfort for even a second. His performance that night was straight out of a movie scene.
18-29, 213 passing yards, 2 Touchdowns, and zero turnovers. His final quarterback rating was 107.4.
Against all odds, Matt Hasselbeck, the man who has quietly had one of the greatest professional careers of all time, the man who was overlooked until the 6th round, the man who “isn’t in the prime of his career anymore,” saved the Colts’ season. He left every last drop of energy in his body on the field. He poured his heart and passion out in the open, and the team rallied behind him. On that night, it was he, not Andrew Luck, whom was the leader of the Colts.
Hasselbeck was emotional and fighting back tears after his inspirational performance. He told a reporter, “I didn’t think I could finish the game. I feel like this isn’t even real right now. I got nothing left, it’s been an emotional day.”
As a fan, you never want to see the starting quarterback of your team go down. But, I will admit, what Matt Hasselbeck has done for the Colts these past two weeks is nothing short of phenomenal. He is truly the definition of what a back-up should be. When his number is called (which it seldom is) he sacrifices everything for his team. Hasselbeck has the Colts at a 3-2 record, and sitting on top of the AFC South.
According to Colts.com and many other sports media outlets, Andrew Luck is expected to play against the Patriots next Sunday night. However, if Luck can’t go, I’m now confident that “old man” Hasselbeck will step in and give it his all.
Colts fans everywhere, make sure to give thanks to Matt Hasselbeck, the man who saved the season.